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Injuries and Olympics go hand-in-hand for Vonn

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It just wouldn't be an Olympics without some kind of Lindsey Vonn injury drama, would it?

The American superstar's crash last week, resulting in a partial tear of her reconstructed ACL, has made it questionable as to whether she'll be able to defend her downhill gold won in Whistler during the 2010 Games.

But it's always been this way for Vonn as the five-ringed circus approaches going back to Torino's Games, and she's managed to persevere each time.

For those who haven't kept up here's a brief review of Vonn's pre-Olympic injuries:

•In 2006, then-Lindsey Kildow crashed on the second downhill training run at San Sicario in Italy just days before the Olympic race took place. The San Sicario course had been changed from the previous World Cup race held there after athletes like Vonn complained it was too easy. She was airlifted to hospital after suffering a bruised hip and pelvic contusion, but still managed to post a top-10 finish two days later.

• In 2010, Vonn arrived in Whistler having injured her shin the week before, and her lower leg instantly became the second-most talked about member of the U.S. Ski Team behind Vonn herself. I mean, can you imagine what it would have been like if Twitter had as wide a reach back then as it does now? #VonnShin would have been trending everywhere and an @LindseysLeg parody account would have popped up immediately. Anyway, Vonn complained about poor grooming on the Dave Murray Downhill before winning gold, plus a bronze in super-G.

• In February, Vonn crashed in the super-G at the World Ski Championships in foggy conditions, tearing ligaments in her knee and fracturing her tibial plateau. She complained afterwards that the race should have been cancelled. By then, with three World Cup downhills left on the schedule, she had already built up such a massive lead in the women's standings that she still won the discipline's season title.

• Then, of course, there was last week's injury in training. On top of re-aggravating her knee injury from last winter, she also scratched up her face and bruised her shoulder. Despite all of that, Vonn posted to her Facebook page on Nov. 22 that she is going to try racing at Lake Louise (in less than two weeks!), calling her most recent injury "a temporary setback."

Since injuries haven't kept her out of an Olympics yet — and hey, she still has plenty of time to complain about something if we're going to keep all trends going — I'm guessing that she'll be in Sochi no matter what, rather than watching the Games at home on the couch with main squeeze Tiger Woods.

By the way, aren't Lindsey and Tiger kind of perfect for each other? The similarities between the two are stunning; the parallel trajectories of their lives and athletic careers uncanny.

Both were teen phenoms in the 1990s that delivered on expectations to rise to the top of their respective sports. Both are a handful of victories away from officially cementing their status as "best ever." Both have had troubling knee injuries in recent years that have made their future success uncertain. Both had, ahem, extremely public divorces that were widely discussed in the media before these elite athletes found each other.

Both have been polarizing figures in their rise to being No. 1. And let's not forget that it's entirely possible Tiger will be an Olympian himself in less than three years when golf returns to the Summer Games program for the first time in 112 years at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The only thing that could make this list more perfect is if both had past rumoured romantic links to Tim Tebow (sorry, Tiger).

But perhaps the most important similarity between the two is how much more attention they bring to their sports when they're in the field competing. Golf and ski racing lose their mainstream appeal when Woods and Vonn aren't part of the discussion.

There will always been hardcore alpine fans, but Vonn wields the power to create new ones. It's tough to remember a time when ski racing had as much attention focused on it, outside of an Olympic season, than when she was campaigning for FIS to allow her to race against men at Lake Louise this same time last year.

Here's another thought: fellow U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin is absolutely dominating the women's slalom circuit at just 18 years old, already winning a Crystal Globe and world title, but she's hardly becoming a household name here in North America. And yet, if Vonn pulls a prank involving a baby squirrel in the middle of summer (a thing that happened), it will be played and re-played in slow motion on every sports highlight show (also a thing that happened).

In short, Vonn is a tremendous asset to ski racing in a unique way. Olympics only come around every four years, and to have her missing out on the Games this winter would be terribly disappointing.

Whether or not you normally root for Vonn, everybody should be rooting for her to get healthy enough to be in the gates in Sochi.

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