VANCOUVER (Reuters) - U.S. golden girl and Olympic downhill favorite Lindsey Vonn dropped a bomb on the Winter Games on Wednesday with news of a painful shin injury that may take her out of contention for a clutch of gold medals.
Two days before the Feb 12-28 Games open in Vancouver, organizers did, however, get a welcome break in the weather with flakes falling on snow-starved freestyle skiing and snowboard venue Cypress Mountain.
Good snow may do little, though, to make up for a Vonn no-show on the slopes of Whistler, the home of the Alpine skiing events.
“Now I‘m questioning whether I’ll be able to ski,” Vonn told a news conference on Wednesday.
Vonn sustained the injury while in training in Austria last week and said it “was the most painful injury I have ever had,” although she has not yet taken any pain medication.
In pursuit of her first Olympic medal, Vonn is arguably the face of these Games, arriving in Canada with wins in eight of the 11 World Cup super-Gs and downhills so far this season.
The American is also a frontrunner in the super-combined, her first scheduled race on Sunday, and a contender for medals in slalom and giant slalom.
While Vonn may be out, Ireland is in.
The International Olympic Committee agreed on Wednesday to give both Ireland and Australia places in the women’s bobsleigh event after a ruling in favor of Australia threatened to take Ireland’s berth away.
Another potential headache for organizers was partially eased when welcome snow arrived at some of the venues craving a fresh dumping of the white stuff.
A record warm January in Vancouver forced organizers to mount a massive snow lift to Cypress this week and threatened to dampen the spectacle in this weekend’s inaugural races.
“We have had a nice little dumping that’s covering the trees. We expect more of this in the next couple of days. We are very happy,” said venue spokesman Stephen Bourdeau.
Whistler has good snow conditions and should also get a dusting in coming days.
Some 5,000 athletes and officials will descend on Whistler and Vancouver for the Games, which will kick off on Friday evening with the first indoor opening ceremony ever in the history of Winter Olympics.
Under the traditional blanket of secrecy conferred to opening ceremonies, speculation swirls around the Canadian city who will light the Olympic flame and whether the flame will burn inside the stadium.
A local television station said its helicopter might have found the site of the flame down by Vancouver’s waterfront.
This will be the first Olympics to be held in the aftermath of the global economic downturn but the Vancouver Organising Committee still expects to balance its budget despite financial difficulties for projects such as the Vancouver Olympic Village.
The International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday that it is also in good financial shape even with hits to top sponsors and a delayed U.S. broadcasting rights deal for the 2016-2016 Olympics.
“I am glad to tell you that the IOC’s finances are solid,” said IOC president Jacques Rogge.
Editing by Miles Evans