US head coach praises Vonn's Olympic decision

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The head coach of the U.S. women's ski team has praised Lindsey Vonn for taking "a very hard decision" and skipping the Sochi Olympics in February because of her injured right knee.

"There was too much risk and she realized that and made the right decision," Alex Hoedlmoser told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "It was a very smart decision from her to actually do this step now."

Vonn announced Tuesday she would miss the Olympics after "the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level."

The 2010 Olympic downhill champion underwent surgery to reconstruct two knee ligaments following a crash at the world championships 11 months ago.

The 29-year-old American tore one of those ligaments again in November but still competed in three World Cup races in Lake Louise, Alberta, in early December before hurting her knee again in a downhill in Val d'Isere, France, two weeks later.

Vonn returned to Vail, Col., to work on her recovery until being forced to give up her comeback attempts. Her personal publicist, Lewis Kay, said Vonn will have surgery again "shortly."

A four-time overall World Cup champion with 59 wins, Vonn would have put her career in danger by trying to compete in Sochi, according to Hoedlmoser.

"If she'd continued on now and got injured, it could have been the end of it all," Hoedlmoser said. "Now she is going to get it fixed, she is going to be ready next year and then she has a couple of more years to go."

The head coach, who is in Austria for World Cup speed races this weekend, said Vonn informed him on her decision on Monday.

"She told me that she was going to do this step," Hoedlmoser said. "Obviously she was very unhappy and devastated about this. She also realized this was the right decision and the only way to continue on her career."

Hoedlmoser said Vonn's decision "was hard for everybody" on the U.S. women's speed team.

"But it wasn't a big surprise," he added. "We knew what condition her knee was in. We all knew that it was a huge risk she was taking just to continue with a ruptured ACL."

Vonn has been working with her own team and medical staff on her recovery, but Hoedlmoser said it was the skier's own decision to skip the Olympics.

"She obviously wanted really, really bad to be at those Olympics," he said. "She wanted to try it, but she also realized that the knee was not stable enough anymore. After Val d'Isere, she realized that and she made the right decision."

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