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U.S. ski star Vonn out for Olympics?

Photo by Marcio Sanchez

Photo by Marcio Sanchez

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Before the Olympics even start, Lindsey Vonn has gone from a favorite to win multiple medals to a question mark of how many, if any, races she'll even ski.

Because of a badly bruised and swollen right shin, Vonn might wind up sitting out a race or two before healing enough to be able to participate in later events, said Thomas Vonn, a former U.S. Olympic skier who acts as a coach and adviser to his wife.

"It is entirely possible that she could race in all five events and be fine. It is possible, for sure. I would be very, very surprised if she didn't race in anything," he said Wednesday.

Her status may become clearer after a training run Thursday, when the two-time reigning overall World Cup champion could test her shin -- if the pain isn't too intense.

"Tomorrow I will try and ski for the first time since my crash, hopefully I can do it," Vonn said on her Twitter account Wednesday.

The trip down the hill could provide all the data Vonn needs: Might she ski only part of the course? Can she tolerate the pain enough to even try skiing?

"We honestly don't know how it's going to respond," her husband said. "We potentially could get up there and she could say, 'OK, this works. I can do this.' And it could be not that big of a problem. Or she could get out there with the painkillers and she could say, 'There's just no chance.'"

Vonn, 25, revealed Wednesday that she hurt her shin during a slalom training run in Austria last week. The injury is so painful that it's a struggle to slip on a ski boot in her hotel, let alone ski down a slope.

If the games had started three days ago, Vonn wouldn't have been ready. She has time -- and time is what she needs. The super-combined race doesn't begin until Sunday, and even that could be pushed back by adverse weather, which is in the forecast.

"I hope I'm able to push through the pain and I'm able to still ski OK," Vonn said Wednesday. "I won't really know until tomorrow when I actually get on skis and they can actually assess the situation and see how bad it is."

To even get to this point, though, sure beats what she was thinking when it first happened -- that her Olympics might be over before she even took her first run.

"She went from being really happy, as well prepared as you can be for an Olympics, to just hitting the bottom really hard," Thomas Vonn said. "The day of the injury was a very tough day."

Vonn elected to skip getting X-rays when the injury happened, fearing it might reveal something more than a bad bruise.

"I pretty much stuck my fingers in my ear and just pretended like I didn't hear what was going on," she said. "I didn't want to hear that my shin was fractured. At the time, that's what it looked like."

The U.S. Ski Team and USOC was aware of Vonn's injury last week, but other than that, the news was kept hush-hush. Her mother didn't even know, finding out about it in an interview with NBC's "Today" show that was taped Tuesday night and aired Wednesday morning.

Vonn insists she wasn't trying to hide anything, simply hoping the shin could heal in time. But with the training sessions beginning and the start of the super-combined looming, she felt she had to disclose the full nature of the ailment.

"I didn't want to announce it," Vonn said. "I'd rather it had healed by now. I wouldn't have had to say anything and I'd be able to ski fine. That wasn't the case and I wanted to tell you guys because if I'm not racing tomorrow or training, I wanted to explain myself before it was a big problem."

Vonn has skied in pain plenty of times before.

At the 2006 Turin Olympics, she took a bad spill in training, a fall that bruised her back and sent her to the hospital.

However, less than 48 hours later, Vonn -- known then by her maiden name, Kildow -- recovered in time and went on to finish eighth in the downhill.

That comeback to the course serves as motivation this time.

"I draw a lot of confidence knowing that I've done it before," Vonn said. "Torino, especially, was a really painful situation for me and something that I wasn't sure if I could even do. I was able to push through it and I competed. ... I've got to go out there and do the best I can with the situation that I have. Hopefully I can ski, hopefully I can ski well, and hopefully I can still get a medal."

Don't bet against it.

"She's a tough girl," said Bill Sterett, a U.S. Ski Team doctor who first treated Vonn when she broke her leg at age 13. "I think you can never discount Lindsey and how tough she is and how much she wants this."

Vonn did her best to smile through her news conference. She did, however, sigh occasionally as she talked about the pain in her leg and the possibility of needing to pull out of one -- or all -- of her five events.

"It's hard to stay positive, you know," Vonn said. "A week ago ... I was feeling great, I was feeling healthy, I had no problems. And now I'm sitting here today questioning whether I'll be even able to ski. So it's not where I want to be, by any means."