American Breezy Johnson, who withdrew from the Winter Games on Tuesday, was a top medal contender. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Breezy Johnson, one of Team USA's top downhill skiers, will not compete in the 2022 Winter Games because of a knee injury, she announced Tuesday on Instagram.
"I have to announce that I have unfortunately injured my knee and must withdraw from the Olympics," Johnson wrote.
"It was the pleasure of my life to represent Team USA at the Games in 2018. And all I have wanted ever since was to come back, stronger, faster, to win a gold medal."
Johnson, 26, crashed twice earlier this month in training runs. Her latest accident occurred last week in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. She said the accident left a "massive crack" in her right knee and a "large chuck of cartilage was partially dislodged."
"I was given the option to try to compete on it," Johnson wrote. "But I don't think that that is realistic or smart. I could do more damage and I certainly don't think I will be skiing my best.
"I love the sport of ski racing and I wanted so badly to realize my dream of becoming an Olympic champion. To bask in the glow of that sunset. But the reality is that the risks, and there are always risks, are no longer worth it."
Johnson finished second in each of the last three downhill races she entered at the World Cup. She first crashed Jan. 8, which left her right knee cut and swollen. She skipped the next two races and returned to training last week. She went down for a second time on the second day of training Friday in Cortina d'Ampezzo.
"This sport is brutal," Johnson wrote. "Someone asked me yesterday why we do it. And at times like these you wonder. But the truth is that, for me, the feeling of racing is the feeling of being truly alive, and so I will keep coming back every time.
"Because that feeling of skiing fast is worth everything."
Mikaela Shiffrin, the top Team USA downhill skier, wrote on Instagram that the news of Johnson's exit was "heartbreaking."
"It's heartbreaking and also inspiring all in one package. All I can say is: we're looking forward to hang you back (and at the top again), Breezy."
Johnson overcame another knee injury to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics. She did not medal in that year in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The 2022 Winter Games run from Feb. 4 through 20 in Beijing. Alpine skiing events run from Feb. 6 through 19. The women's downhill final is scheduled for Feb. 15.