SCHLADMING, Austria — All it took was a moment. Lindsey Vonn landed hard and tumbled face first with a piercing shriek.
Just like that, her season was done. The star American skier was on the ground Tuesday with two torn ligaments in her right knee and a broken bone in her lower leg.
The cascading fall down during the super-G at the world championships knocked out the four-time World Cup champion for the rest of the season, the latest and most serious in a string of injuries for Vonn at skiing’s biggest events.
The U.S. team said in a statement it expects her back for the next World Cup season and the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which start next year at this time.
The harrowing accident came after Vonn was lifted into the air off a jump in the opening race at the Alpine World Ski Championships. As she hit the ground, her right leg gave way and she spun down face first, throwing an arm out to protect herself. She ended up on her back as she smashed through a gate.
On the television feed, Vonn was clearly heard screaming an expletive as she landed, then a despairing “Yes, yes,” when someone asked, “Are you hurt?”
Race leader and eventual champion Tina Maze watched with her mouth agape. The concern also was obvious on the face of Vonn’s sister, Laura Kildow, who has been traveling with her full time this season.
For 12 minutes, Vonn lay on the snow getting medical attention before being airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Schladming.
Vonn tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee, U.S. ski team medical director Kyle Wilkens said in a statement. The broken bone was described as a “lateral tibial plateau fracture.”
Christian Kaulfersch, the assistant medical director at the worlds, said Vonn left the Schladming hospital on Tuesday afternoon and will have surgery in another hospital.
“She first wanted to go back to the team hotel to mentally deal with all what has happened,” Kaulfersch said.
The start of the race was delayed by 31/2 hours because of fog hanging over the course and it began in waning light at 2:30 p.m. local time. All the delays made for what skiers call flat light — overcast and dreary conditions — when Vonn raced.
At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Vonn won the gold medal in the downhill and bronze in the super-G.