Despite broken finger, Lindsey Vonn prepares for the slalom, her final Olympic event

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 26, 2010; D06

American Lindsey Vonn will race in the final event of her Olympic program -- the women's slalom -- on Friday despite the broken right pinkie she suffered during a hard crash in Wednesday's giant slalom, though she will wear a special brace that protects the finger and allows her to slam through the gates with her hand.

"She's going to race," said Thomas Vonn, her husband and de facto coach, in a phone interview Thursday. "She was feeling pretty beat up today. The big concern is, can she grip a pole with a broken finger and be able to hit slalom gates? It'd probably be easier to ski any other event with this kind of injury, but luckily, she's pretty good at dealing with hand injuries."

Because of her failure to finish the first run of giant slalom, Vonn was ineligible for the second run, and she spent Thursday training for slalom. Thomas Vonn said Vonn's team was able to come up with a brace and make modifications to her right glove that would allow her to grip her pole. She is not wearing a cast.

"She knows how to deal with it," Thomas Vonn said.

Thus, Vonn will pursue her third medal of the Vancouver Games with yet another injury. Last year, she sliced open her thumb while opening a champagne bottle in a victory celebration. In December, she hurt her arm and wrist during a crash in a World Cup race, an injury that has adversely affected her performance in the technical disciplines -- slalom and giant slalom. Then, in training on Feb. 2 in Austria, she bruised her right shin badly enough that she arrived in Canada wondering whether she would be able to compete at all here.

"It's not as painful as the thumb injury, and probably not as painful as what she dealt with earlier this year," Thomas Vonn said. "Obviously, it's not the best thing to have if she was going to put her hand down. That would probably mess her up pretty bad. But it's a lot easier to deal with than the shin."

At these Olympics, Vonn won a gold medal in the downhill and then followed with a bronze in the super-G. The diagnosis Wednesday by Jim Moeller, the chief medical officer of the U.S. Olympic team, was of a "non-displaced fracture of the proximal phalanx of the small finger on her right hand."

Even if healthy, Vonn seems to be a long shot for a medal in slalom. She has five podium finishes in slalom, including two wins, in her World Cup career. But after opening the season with a second-place finish in Levi, Finland, she since has failed to finish four of six slalom races.

"Obviously, she's not coming into this in the same form as she did at the beginning of the season," Thomas Vonn said. "She hasn't trained hardly any slalom. But she's going to go out there, and she's going to give it her best. It's the Olympics, and anything can happen."

U.S. bobsledder detained

American bobsledder Bill Schuffenhauer was detained and released by Canadian police after an argument with his fiancée, a person with direct knowledge of the investigation told the Associated Press.

Schuffenhauer resumed Olympic training Thursday and is expected to compete in Friday's four-man bobsled.

Police released him after finding no evidence of a crime, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

"I didn't get to talk to him about it," said Mike Kohn, the driver of the sled that Schuffenhauer helps push. "There's an ongoing investigation. . . . We're just trying to focus on the race right now."

Darrin Steele, chief executive of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, said Schuffenhauer was not arrested. Canadian police declined to comment, citing privacy laws.

News services contributed.

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