By Jeff Frank, Olympic Contributor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The chance for United States Olympic gold took a major hit last week when Lindsey Vonn announced she would be unable to participate in the upcoming winter games due to an injured knee.
Vonn, a gold medal winner in the 2010 Olympics, had to pass up a chance for back-to-back downhill Olympic gold medals because of an accident in Austria that ruptured her knee.
The news is a big blow to the Americans as their star will not shine when it matters most. Fortunately, Vonn is young enough to bounce back and return in four years for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The 29-year-old also has other fish to fry, including a run at the all-time women's mark of 62 World Cup victories. Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proell has the record with 36 downhill wins, 16 giant slalom tallies, three slalom and seven combined victories. Moser-Proell's triumphs span from 1970 through 1980.
Vonn's 59 World Cup wins began in 2005 with a victory in the downhill at Lake Louise in Canada. Since then, she has tacked on 28 more downhill tallies, 20 super G wins, three giant slalom victories, two slalom triumphs and five combined wins.
The Minnesota native has been extremely dominant of late with 18 victories between Oct. 22, 2011 and Jan. 26, 2013. Unfortunately, she will have to wait a while before possibly overtaking Moser-Proell due to surgery on her right knee.
HOW WILL THE U.S. COMPETE WITHOUT VONN?
Back in 2010, the Women's Alpine skiing team racked up four medals - one gold, two silver and one bronze. Nonetheless, Vonn was the recipient of two of those medals, including the lone gold in the downhill. Julia Mancuso picked up a pair of silvers in the downhill and combined, while Vonn took the bronze in the super G.
Vonn's downhill gold was the first ever for an American woman in the event's Olympic history. Thankfully for the U.S., Mancuso is back, along with 18-year- old Mikaela Shiffrin.
Mancuso did not win any of her 2013 World Cup events, but she did run second in two, and third in the other pair. Her last World Cup victory came in Feb. 2012. Still, she owns a gold medal in the 2006 Olympics in the giant slalom to go along with her two silvers from 2010.
As for Shiffrin, the Colorado native should be able to bring home a medal in the slalom, her No. 1 event. She took home first prize in the Jan. 5 slalom in Bormio, Italy, and has five other first-place finishes in the slalom since Dec. 20, 2012.
The key question for Shiffrin is how will the Olympic spotlight affect her performance, especially with the veteran Vonn unable to help her cope with the pressure? The poise (and her ability) will determine the answer to that question.
For the United States to succeed in Sochi without Vonn, Shiffrin and Mancuso will have to come through with their finest performances. Otherwise, the 2014 Winter Olympics will be considered a disappointment, especially for the ladies of the slopes.
01/10 12:03:44 ET