U.S. Olympic alpine skier Lindsey Vonn is hanging up her skis earlier than expected, saying that following past injuries, her body is "broken beyond repair" for the sport.
The 34-year-old athlete said on Friday that she is retiring from ski racing and will compete in her final races next week. In October, Vonn had announced that she was "definitely retiring" at the end of the 2018-19 season, which concludes in March.
"It's been an emotional 2 weeks making the hardest decision of my life, but I have accepted that I cannot continue ski racing," she wrote on Instagram on Friday. "I will compete at the World Championships in Downhill and SG next week in Åre, Sweden and they will be the final races of my career."
Vonn cited several past crashes and injuries.
"I have never wanted the storyline of my career to be about injuries and because of that I decided not to tell anyone that I underwent surgery this past spring," she wrote. "A large portion of cartilage that had delaminated from my bone was removed. My crash in Lake Louise last year was much more painful than I let on, but I continued to race because I wanted to win a medal in the Olympics for my late grandfather. Again, I rehabbed my way back this summer and I felt better than I had in a long time. Then I crashed in Copper this November and injured my left knee, tearing my LCL plus sustaining 3 fractures."
"Despite extensive therapy, training and a knee brace, I am not able make the turns necessary to compete the way I know I can," she continued. "My body is broken beyond repair and it isn't letting me have the final season I dreamed of. My body is screaming at me to STOP and it's time for me to listen."
Vonn said that while she was not upset about retiring, "retiring without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever."
"However, I can look back at 82 World Cup wins, 20 World Cup titles, 3 Olympic medals, 7 World Championship medals and say that I have accomplished something that no other woman in HISTORY has ever done, and that is something that I will be proud of FOREVER!" she wrote. "I always say, 'Never give up!' So to all the kids out there, to my fans who have sent me messages of encouragement to keep going...I need to tell you that I'm not giving up! I'm just starting a new chapter."
"Don't lose faith in your dreams, keep fighting for what you love, and if you always give everything you have you'll be happy no matter what the outcome," she continued. "Thank you for the amazing years, for always supporting me, and for making my job so fun. Can't wait to see some of you in the finish in Åre where I will give it my all one last time. Love always, Lindsey."