Another one was the injury itself. On Tuesday, as far as anyone outside of Vonn¹s inner circle knew, she was the presumptive American face of the Vancouver Olympics.
She was a strong favorite in three of alpine skiing's five races, including skiing¹s crown jewel, the downhill. Throw a swimsuit-model image deemed worthy of Sports Illustrated and the fact that no Americans are likely to do better than bronze in the ladies' figure-skating competition, and Vonn had little competition.
Now, it turns out that she went head-over-skis in a training accident in Austria last week, meaning she can no longer put her ski boots on without "excruciating" pain.
She hasn¹t even tried to ski yet.
That comes Thursday, with the first ladies' training run of the Olympics.
Asked if the injury could prevent her from skiing at all, she answered: "Definitely." She said she had hidden the injury in the hopes that it would get better and be a non-issue. That has not happened.
Only just recovered from a pre-Super Bowl obsession with the recuperative properties of Dwight Freeney's ankle, America now has a new famous body part over which to fret.
Try the cheese
Yet other, somewhat more peculiar revelations also emerged Wednesday.
“I put cheese on it to try to take the swelling out,” she said.
Excuse me. What?
Yes, she repeated: topfen, a curd cheese.
“Basically, I’m doing anything I can,” Vonn said.
That, however, has not included getting an X-ray. Going expressly against the wishes of her trainers, she has refused to get one, knowing that any evidence of a fracture could force her to end her season.
The diagnosis of a deep bruise – not a fracture – from a doctor feeling the bone, is good enough for Vonn, who admitted to essentially putting her fingers in her ears when trainers examined her on the slope after her crash.
“I didn’t want to hear that my shin had been fractured, which is what it looked like,” she said.
That diagnosis means that to compete, she only has to ski through the pain.
In this case, the "only" is a big asterisk.
Vonn calls it the most painful injury she has ever had – and this is the woman who flipped on a training run at the Turin Olympics, landed flat on her back, and was airlifted to the hospital. She raced two days later.
The difference this time, she said, is that this is her shin. As a skier leans forward to maintain control and prevent from becoming the Olympics’ version of a bug on a windshield, stiff boots offer resistance, and shins take the punishment.
A back injury "is easier to push though," she said.
Four years ago, Vonn “just wanted to ski to be a part of the Olympics,” she said.
Now, a two-time World Cup overall champion, “I don’t want to do that.”
She wants to dominate.
One teammate, at least, thinks Vonn will make it – and that the injury could be a blessing in disguise.
When you have an injury, all the other distractions – in this case, trying to win five medals – melt away, says Kaylin Richardson.
“You focus on what’s important because you have to,” she said.