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Vonn Injured In Return Prep

Denver — Reigning Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn crashed Tuesday while training in Copper Mountain, Colo., ahead of her planned return to racing following major knee surgery.

U.S. Ski Team spokesman Tom Kelly said Vonn was being evaluated at a hospital after being taken off the slope on a sled, which he noted was “normal protocol” in such cases.

Kelly said he was not sure whether Vonn hurt her surgically repaired right knee in the fall at the team’s speed training center.

“We have no reason to believe it’s anything significant right now,” Kelly told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Vonn, a four-time overall World Cup champion, tore ligaments in her right knee in a high-speed accident at the world championships in February. She has been aiming to return to World Cup competition next week in Beaver Creek, Colo.

The Sochi Games are in February.

Tuesday’s crash was first reported by Skiracing.com.

With Vonn feeling her knee was months ahead of schedule, she thought about pushing up her comeback to the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, late last month. But she changed her mind, opting instead to continue to prepare.

Vonn recently said her super-G is “some of the best super-G I’ve ever skied, but my downhill still needs a little more time.”

She’s been taking practice runs in Copper Mountain, and posted on her Twitter account Monday: “Catching some air today in Downhill training.”

She also recently said that she’s reluctantly been wearing a protective knee brace under doctor’s orders.

“It’s in my best interest to play it safe,” Vonn said. “I compromised and said that as long as I don’t have to wear (the brace) for the Olympics, I’ll be fine.”

The 29-year-old Vonn, who lives in Vail, attended the NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos on Sunday night, hanging out on the sideline with boyfriend Tiger Woods.

Vonn needs just three more wins to match Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell’s record of 62 World Cup race victories. And while Vonn insists her primary focus this season is being fully healthy for Sochi, she acknowledges that World Cup mark would hold special meaning.

“There are many Olympic champions, but to be the No. 1 winningest World Cup racer of all time, you’re alone on that list. You’re at the top,” Vonn said. “That would be more substantial for me and my legacy.”