Laura Kildow, Lindsey Vonn’s sister, watches as Vonn is evacuated from the slope by helicopter. (Leonhard Foeger / Reuters)

A little over a year from the start of the 2014 Winter Games, American Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn faces reconstructive surgery after injuring her right knee in a nasty fall in a Super-G race in the world Alpine championship in Schladming, Austria.

“According to U.S. Ski Team medical director Kyle Wilkens, Vonn suffered a torn [anterior cruciate ligament] and [medial collateral ligament] in her right knee and a lateral tibial plateau fracture,” the team said in a statement. “She will be out for the remainder of this season but is expected to return to racing for the 2013-14 Audi FIS World Cup season and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.”

Vonn, the defending Olympic downhill gold medalist and winner of four World Cup overall titles, crashed when her knee gave way gruesomely as she landed after a jump. Vonn had led through the first timed stage of the event, but trailed Tina Maze, the eventual winner, by .12 of a second when she began the run on which she crashed.

Although recovery times vary, Vonn, 28, can take heart from athletes like the Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who was playing football nine months after tearing his ACL and MCL (and meniscus), and Picabo Street, who won a gold medal 14 months after a serious knee injury.

“I obviously reflect immediately on my 14-month recovery before the Nagano Games,” Street told the Denver Post. “I started counting on my fingers right away and went, ‘Wow, she has 12 [months], I had 14 and barely pulled it off.’ It’s a tight timeframe. It will be something she will need to pay all of her attention to, and she knows how to do that. She knows how to dedicate herself to what she believes in.

“It’s going to take everything she’s got. This is where she’s going to find out what she’s made of, and the rest of us are going to be along for the ride, cheering and praying and hoping.”

Tina Maze couldn’t hide her reaction to Lindsey Vonn’s tumble. (Samuel Kubani / AFP – Getty Images)

Vonn has had a history of crashes and injuries over her career. Last fall, an intestinal ailment forced her to be hospitalized and she returned to competition last month. After she crashed today, she was treated on the course for about 12 minutes, then airlifted to a hospital by helicopter.

“I’m really sorry for Lindsey, who took a too direct line,” Maze, who watched Vonn’s fall in horror, said. “I regret her dreadful crash.”

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