Lindsey Vonn crashed in the super-G at the world championships Tuesday, straddling a gate mid-air and ending up in the safety nets.
Vonn, however, got up and skied down the hill after being tended to by medical personnel.
"Everyone was screaming as she crashed jumping through the gates," Austrian racer Nicole Schmidhofer said. "That's Lindsey. She (goes) 100 percent or nothing. That's why she has won so many races and why she's an Olympic champion."
The 34-year-old Vonn, the all-time leader in women's World Cup wins, announced last week that she will retire after racing the super-G and downhill at the worlds.
Vonn, who has been slowed by persistent pain in both of her knees, lost control in mid-air and skiing through a gate. The panel fitted between the two poles detached and got stuck on her boots.
When she hit the ground she slid downhill face first, using her hands to keep her head from hitting the snow, then came to a stop when she hit the safety netting.
"Everybody, cross your fingers or hold your thumbs. That didn't look like a nice crash," said American teammate Mikaela Shiffrin, who won the race. "She went really hard into the fence. Hopefully she is OK."
Vonn was wearing an inflatable safety air bag under her racing suit.
"It inflated as she started to tumble over and it helped soften the impact when she hit the safety nets," said Marco Pastore, who represents air bag producer Dainese.
Upon seeing Vonn's crash, Shiffrin looked away from the big video screen in the finish area. Sofia Goggia, who took silver, clasped her helmet with both hands, and the crowd gasped. One American fan appeared to be crying.
Vonn was seen stretching both of her legs during TV interviews and appeared to be in pain — at the same time as the American anthem was being played to honor Shiffrin's victory.
Vonn is slated to conclude her career with Sunday's downhill.
"Hopefully we see her in the downhill," Schmidhofer said.
On a highly technical course, many other skiers also failed to finish their runs. American teammate Laurenne Ross also crashed, as did Christina Ager of Austria.
Shiffrin also narrowly avoided crashing, only barely clearing a gate near the end of her run.
Of the 43 starters, 14 failed to finish.
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