Unable to overcome the severe damage suffered to her right knee in a ski crash last year, gold medalist and media star Lindsey Vonn said Tuesday she's out of next month's Sochi Olympics.
Vonn's withdrawal from the Winter Games is not only a blow to U.S. efforts in the medal race, but it could also mean lower TV and online ratings, especially from American audiences.
"She's highly marketable, and without her I would expect interest in the games from U.S. viewers to drop," said Mark Conrad, professor of sports law at Fordham University.
"Given the time difference on when the games are aired even live in the U.S., there's enough difficulty in getting viewers, but her not participating makes it worse," Conrad said.
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The 29-year-old Vonn had been the face of NBC's marketing efforts in promoting its broadcasts of the games, and her return from the knee injury was a big story in the sports world (NBC Universal is the parent company of CNBC.)
But that's pretty much over now.
"There aren't that many well-known American athletes in the games, and she was probably the major draw," Conrad said.
Vonn matched a pretty face with a winning attitude, said Brad Adgate, senior research analyst at public relations and marketing firm Horizon Media.
"She's every photogenic and had a high profile," Adgate said.
"Americans love a winner and she won," he added. "I think they'll still watch the games but her loss will be felt."