Less than two weeks after reconstructive surgery on her right knee in February 2013, Lindsey Vonn already was sounding a positive note, saying she was "really looking forward to Sochi" and defending her Olympic downhill gold medal.
Along the way to the next Winter Games, though, Vonn began facing setbacks. As she'd move past one, another would surface. In the end, it was too much, even for Vonn, the most accomplished U.S. ski racer in history.
Expected to be one of the biggest stars at these Olympics, Vonn announced Tuesday -- exactly one month before the opening ceremony -- she won't be able to race in Russia.
In a Facebook posting, Vonn said she is "devastated" to miss the Olympics, "but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level."
Her personal publicist, Lewis Kay, said in a statement the 29-year-old from Vail, Colo., will have knee surgery again "shortly."
Vonn left the 2010 Vancouver Games with two medals: the first Olympic downhill gold for an American woman and a bronze in the super-G. She is also a four-time overall World Cup champion, by far the most recognized name in alpine skiing at the moment -- and, as it happens, the girlfriend of Tiger Woods.
Add it all up and she would have been the focus of plenty of media coverage in Sochi, certainly a main character in NBC's coverage for a U.S. audience.
"I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL," Vonn said Tuesday via Facebook.
"I'm having surgery soon so that I can be ready for the world championships at home in Vail next February," she wrote. "On a positive note, this means there will be an additional spot so that one of my teammates can go for gold."
After skiing in two downhills and a super-G at Lake Louise, Alta., last month, Vonn sounded optimistic, declaring she would be in Sochi "fighting for my medal."
But shortly thereafter in France -- with Woods watching in the finish area -- Vonn lost her balance. Her left ski lifted, forcing weight onto her right knee. She grimaced, then clutched that leg.
Kay said Tuesday an MRI "showed an MCL sprain, which coupled with the torn ACL, has made it impossible to stabilize her knee and be ready to safely ski again next month."
Now Vonn will turn her attention to the 2015 world championships in Colorado.
-- The Associated Press