Lindsey Vonn's Year in Photos: A Retrospective of Olympian's Rehab for Sochi

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterDecember 9, 2013

COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO - NOVEMBER 08:  Lindsey Vonn (R) is introduced along with Laurenne Ross (L) and Mikaela Shiffrin (R) during the U.S. Alpine Ski Team Announcement and pep rally at Copper Mountain on November 8, 2013 in Copper Mountain, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

On Feb. 5, 2013, one year from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Lindsey Vonn crashed during the Alpine Ski World Championships in Austria. 

The crash ended her season and began an amazing story of recovery for the United States' most celebrated and accomplished skier. The question was, how would the story end? Would she reach the Winter Games in February 2014?

To display the enormity of it all, we delved into social media, where Vonn recorded the highs and lows of a yearlong struggle to get back to the top of the mountain.

All along she seemed to find time for some fun, not to mention a notable romance. 

While the end result isn't at all what Vonn had hoped for, here is her 2013 path through the ever-present lens of social media.

On Feb. 4, she traversed the mountain with the calm of an athlete atop her sport. 

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The next day, Vonn suffered her injury, needing subsequent surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments as well as a break in her leg, via CBS News

Here is Vonn after undergoing a successful surgery on Feb. 11.

Adding humor to the mix, Vonn posted an image of her surgically repaired leg with the caption, "My knee very good....#longskirtsthissummer #ugh."

We can rebuild her. We have the technology. 

There is no rest for the weary, especially those exhausted souls with big plans in 2014. She posted the following image just seven days after her surgery

Although, chance encounters with Orlando Bloom ease the effects of physical therapy. 

And then, on March 18, Vonn would post a photo of herself with another familiar face and a fellow world-class athlete. 

After speculation, rumor and ongoing gossip, Tiger Woods decided to post a photo of himself and Vonn on his Facebook page, one that she also posted to her Instagram feed

Along with the images of the happy twosome was the brief explanation that, yes, the two were indeed a couple. 

A solo mission to rehab a knee and get to the Winter Olympics in Sochi would now be a tantalizing tale of two renowned athletes battling the difficulties of their respective sports, facing the media as a romantically linked pair and giving us some wonderful images that capture it all. 

But, of course, there is so much more work to be done.

By March 26, she was down to one crutch.

On April 7, Vonn showed off her ability to perform double-leg squats.  

April 9: Here's the face of an athlete with a clear goal and the understanding of what it takes to get there. 

April 28: Don't mistake this as a portrait of exhaustion, just the legs of a woman about to get some work in. (Caption: "Sunday morning training #roadtosochi #riseandshine")

Of course, there is a time to work and there is a time to walk the red carpet with your star golfer boyfriend. 

Woods and Vonn enjoyed one of their first public appearances with one another at the Met Gala in May. She made sure to tweet and post to commemorate the event. 

And then it was right back to work: 

Vonn throwing up plates:

Getting in lateral work:  

And generally getting things done: 

By Aug. 5, she had made dramatic improvement on the amount of weight she could handle.

Of course, the summer is a time for fun, frivolity and new experiences. Vonn certainly found time to pal around with her sister, join her boyfriend on a trip to the British Open and pose for Vogue

She even found time to perfect the summer's greatest sports meme: Dufnering. And she did so with the man himself, Jason Dufner.

In that July issue of Vogue, Vonn spoke with the magazine's Jonathan Van Meter about myriad issues. The column gives tremendous insight into an athlete in the midst of a turbulent year. 

On Tiger Woods: 

“We immediately clicked, you know? It was just one of those things.” For several months, it was a long-distance phone and text friendship. “We talked a lot, corresponded a lot, and he was a good friend who was always there. And then it became more.”

Oct 3, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; USA skier Lindsey Vonn and Tiger on the 17th green during the Thursday four ball matches of the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

On her sport and the razor's edge on which she finds herself, barreling down at absurd speeds: 

It’s like driving a car. People get nervous driving around corners, thinking they’re going to tip over. But you can go soooo much faster through the curves than you realize. That’s why I like watching men’s racing. I always want to try to get closer to that. You are only limited to what you push yourself to, you know? You can always get better.

And so she pushed forward as she always had, and on Sept. 3 had some amazing news for her fans. Here is an image she posted to Facebook (caption follows the image).

Photo Credit: YouTube

It's been 7 months since I crashed and tore my ACL, MCL and fractured my tibial plateau. After surgery, rehab, physical training and a LOT of patience, I'm finally BACK! Thanks to all of my fans, family and friends for getting me back on the snow! If you thought this would stop me you don't know who I am. I'm on the road to Sochi and I'm not slowing down!

Vonn was also careful to share the joy through Instagram:  

On Sept. 9, she strapped on her GoPro camera and took all of us along for the ride. 

Vonn continued to enjoy the sights while slowly working her way back into skiing shape in Portillo, Chile.

By early October, it was time to reunite with Woods and enjoy being a spectator once again. 

Here are the two via Instagram with the caption, "Had fun at the opening ceremonies for the President's cup last night :) #Prescup #alldressedup #datenight#MullerPhotoApp." 

And she grabbed an apropos photo op with President George W. Bush while enjoying what would be a fruitful Presidents Cup

Vonn's schedule takes the term hectic to a far more frantic yet wonderful level. When she isn't enjoying a world-class golf tournament, she is landing in Austria to inch closer to competitive skiing. 

And then it was back to the States to deliver some interviews, catching fans up on her progress and her plans for what she had hoped would be a compelling Thanksgiving weekend. 

She spoke with David Letterman about her brief jaunt to Austria and relived the crash that sidelined her from racing for the better part of the year. As she notes, a small part of her hamstring was used to fix one of her ligaments. 

Her explanation of the effects illustrates just how arduous this rehabilitation has been. 

Vonn also found time to sit down with Matt Lauer on Today, giving the host a chance to marvel at what has been a remarkable and swift recovery.

The best part is Vonn proclaiming that she feels so good that she hardly notices which leg is the injured one, and she has absolutely no worry as she flies down the hill—an acknowledgment of strength that will prove vital down the road. 

One of her more memorable exchanges came in speaking with Katie Couric. She divulged that the same golfer who chides himself with expletives and has been known to berate a golf club now and again is far different away from the links.

Vonn's Woods is far different than you might expect; he is, in her own affectionate terms, "funny" and "dorky."

The next big step for Vonn came in tandem with the date she no doubt circled right around Thanksgiving. While many were giddy to float comfortably into a well-deserved food coma, Vonn was eager to get back to full-on competition. 

Vonn and Woods were already in the Denver area, preparing for Vonn's hopeful return in Beaver Creek, Colo. The Twittersphere spotted them on Nov. 13 in Breckenridge, via NBC Sports

They also took in Sunday Night Football to watch Vonn's beloved Denver Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-17. 

Nov 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; American golfer Tiger Woods with girlfriend American skier Lindsey Vonn on the sidelines before the game between the Kansas City Chiefs against the Denver Broncos in the first quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few days later, an already painful, arduous and tumultuous healing process hit a snag. How will this hurdle affect her ultimate goal?

As Team USA reported on Nov. 19, Vonn crashed while training and injured her knee. It was not known at the time how severe the injury was. 

Junior skier Maris Van Slyke was there to capture the scary moment and the uncertainty that followed, via Twitter

NBC Olympic Talk did report, via an email from Vonn's publicist, a bit more on the situation: 

Lindsey crashed earlier this morning while training at Copper Mountain in Colorado. She was not admitted to the hospital and is currently being evaluated by [U.S. women's ski team] Dr. [Bill] Sterett back in Vail. We expect to have clarity on the situation in the next 24 hours.

Fans from all corners of the world and spectrum of pop culture offered up their support—leading to a rather peculiar if not humorous sight amid the injury.

Here is Lil Wayne's shout-out to Vonn, and her lone reply. 

Slowly, we received clarity. Vonn would eventually put her fans' minds at ease with a promise to do what she has always done: fight.

Nov 8, 2013; Vail, CO, USA; Lindsey Vonn (USA) speaks at a press conference following team training at Vail. Mandatory Credit: Paul Bussi-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Bussi-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what she posted to Facebook

Thank you all so much for your support and well wishes. It has been a very difficult few days and your positive messages have helped tremendously. Rehab is going well and I am working as hard as I can to race in Lake Louise in a few weeks. Thank you again, I'm proud to have the best fans in the world! Love, Lindsey

PS: don't worry guys, this is only a temporary setback. Nothing will keep me from picking myself back up and continuing to fight for my dreams. #sochi2014 #whenyoufallgetbackup #notstopping #workinghard

USA Today's Kelly Whiteside reported Vonn, who had a partially torn right ACL, would not compete in Beaver Creek, Colo., as was previously hoped. But there was some good news.  

While competitive skiing over Thanksgiving weekend was out of the question, the report stated that strength in the injured leg remained and Vonn had all she needed to set her sights on the World Cup event in Lake Louise, Alberta, in two weeks. 

To that end, she went back to giving fans a familiar sight as she posted the following image to her Instagram with the caption, "Working hard in therapy today. Making progress! #IWILL #sochi2014 #workinghard."

A short while later, on Nov. 28, Vonn was back on her skis. 

Vonn also offered this look on the cover of Red Bulletin Magazine. You can read some of the interview via the magazine's website. 

More importantly, Vonn posted, on Dec. 5, the following picture with the caption, "Thankful and happy to announce I will be starting in the World Cup downhill race tomorrow!!!#readytorace #iwill #tbt #sochi2014."

Vonn then headed into a busy and altogether promising weekend at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. USA Today's Whiteside reported on a World Cup comeback that started with a 40th-place finish and culminated in a fifth-place finale in Sunday's Super G. 

Vonn was eager to give a first-person account of her return to competitive skiing.

Vonn told Whiteside she is prepared to enter a number of World Cups prior to Sochi: "I want to make sure I at least get on the podium once, if not win before going into Sochi. For me mentally I really want to have that in my back pocket."

A few weeks after suffering a big setback in the form of a partial tear to her ACL, Vonn was back and hopeful the ultimate goal of medaling in the Olympics was well within her reach. 

About a month-and-a-half out from competition, Vonn was making giant leaps toward that goal. Yahoo! Sports reported Vonn placed 12th in her training run for Saturday's race in Val d’Isere, France. 

Here she is with a caption that reads, "Back on snow." Of course, she was careful to add a smiling emoticon for her fans as well.  

The report notes that Vonn was 0.97 seconds off the pace of Spain's Carolina Ruiz Castillo, so she did have some work to do. 

However, she posted a bit of news on Dec. 17 that went a long way in adding some levity to her year.

The humor and lighthearted sentiments would be short-lived.

CNN reported on Dec. 21 that the star skier injured her knee while competing in Val d'Isere, France. "I didn't hurt myself more than I'm already hurt," Vonn offered. "Unfortunately I have no (anterior cruciate ligament) and it gave out on me."

An already frustrated athlete tweeted to fans: 

And then came news fans had been dreading since Vonn launched her initial comeback. Much in the same way Vonn chronicled her healing process, she announced the humbling reality that she will not be able to compete at Sochi.  

Here is what she had to offer on her Facebook page.

I am devastated to announce that I will not be able to compete in Sochi. I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level. I'm having surgery soon so that I can be ready for the World Championships at home in Vail next February. On a positive note, this means there will be an additional spot so that one of my teammates can go for gold. Thank you all so much for all of the love and support. I will be cheering for all of the Olympians and especially team USA! 
XO Lindsey

The road to Sochi, for Vonn, ends here. The consolation is that this isn't the final blow to an already prolific career, but one major hurdle she is determined to beat.