The power couple of sports is a rehab unit all its own.
Lindsey Vonn and Tiger Woods, however, can take heart in knowing they have each other to lean on during the arduous process.
Vonn is working her way back from a second right knee operation that kept her from skiing at the Sochi Olympics. Woods is recovering from surgery to relieve pain from a pinched nerve in his back that caused him to miss the Masters.
“Rehab is not a fun thing to do — it’s very monotonous and tedious and a lot of the same exercises over and over and over,” Vonn said by phone from Florida. “But if you’re going through rehab, it’s nice to have a partner to do this with … someone who relates to your situation and that you can talk to, rehab and train together.”
The one thing that’s off limits? Treating this as a race or tournament.
“We have to keep our competitiveness at bay because it’s not about that,” Vonn said. “It’s about doing it right and taking the time it needs to really heal properly.”
The four-time overall World Cup champion had her anterior cruciate ligament fixed for a second time in January, sidelining her for Sochi. There also was quite a bit of cartilage damage in the knee, meaning this recovery will be even slower.
Still, things are “right on track, if not slightly ahead,” Vonn said. She hopes to return to snow on Oct. 1, most likely in Europe. If all goes well, she could be racing two months later in Lake Louise, Alberta.
“I’m in a good place,” she said.
When times get tough, though, she has Woods — and vice versa. In a recent posting on his website, Woods said: “It does help to rehab with Lindsey, but her programs are much further along than mine. That does help when you’re not the only one suffering.”
“We remind ourselves not to push it too hard and to ask, ‘How are you feeling?'” the 2010 Olympic downhill gold medalist said. “He knows I’m in pain and I know he’s in pain. We understand each other. It’s different when you’re both experiencing it at the same time, even though they’re two completely different injuries.”
Vonn has been spending about seven hours a day in rehab as she splits her time between Vail, Colorado, and Florida. She recently was cleared to return to her road bike and promptly went for a 20-mile trek.
“I feel like I’m making really good progress now,” said Vonn, who recently became an equity partner in Hyperice, a recovery technology company that also counts Adrian Peterson and Blake Griffin as shareholders.
Vonn tore two ligaments in her right knee during a high-speed crash at the world championships in February 2013. She pushed hard to get back in time for Sochi, only to re-injure her surgically repaired ACL in a crash during training last November at Copper Mountain.
Looking back, Vonn doesn’t think she returned too soon. Her knee was strong at the time and she insists it was just “really, really, really bad luck that I crashed when I did.”
Still, she has one regret: Maybe she should have backed off training.
“If I would’ve maybe waited and saved it for the races, maybe it would’ve been different,” Vonn said. “I don’t know what brakes are. … It’s hard for me to slow myself down.