Lindsey Vonn crashed Tuesday during the final Super-G event of her career at the Alpine world championships in Are, Sweden.
Losing control in mid-air and skiing through a gate, the panel fitted between the two poles detached and got stuck on Vonn's 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 by .02 seconds. "She went really hard into the fence. Hopefully she is OK."
Vonn, a Minnesota native who learned to ski at Buck Hill in Burnsville, is scheduled to compete in the downhill on Sunday. The 34-year-old Vonn announced on Friday that she is calling it quits because of her battered knees.
"It's time to be done," Vonn said in a TV interview after the crash. "My body isn't doing what my mind is telling it to."
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.
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.
For Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic champion who is not too far behind Vonn on the all-time wins list, it marked her first major championship medal in a speed event.
Still, this victory wasn't without its complications: Shiffrin veered off line on the lower section of the course, flailed her arms mid-air to slow down and narrowly cleared the next gate, clipping it with her side.
She finished 0.02 seconds ahead of Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia of Italy. Corinne Suter of Switzerland was third, 0.05 behind, on a course that was shortened because of strong winds.