Alpine Skiing - Vonn to take unexpected sabbatical from skiing

Lindsey Vonn has been forced to take a break from the current World Cup season as the American struggles to get over the effects of an intestinal illness.

Vonn, who disappointed in outings in France at the weekend, said she needs time to recover fully from the stomach problem that landed her in hospital for two nights last month.

“After talking with my family and consulting with my coaches and trainers, I have decided to take a break from the World Cup circuit,” Vonn said on her Facebook page.

“Since my intestinal infection last month, I have been struggling with my energy and strength. I believe that some time off the mountain will help me regain the physical strength that I require to compete at the level that I demand from myself.”

The 28-year-old suffered two uncharacteristic falls over the weekend - first in the Val d'Isere downhill and then in the giant slalom in Courcheval.

Vonn revealed in a magazine article published before the two French World Cup meetings that she suffers from depression, but she insisted this sabbatical was unrelated.

“I want to be emphatic that this has nothing to do with my recent interview with People Magazine," she said.

“I had completed that interview weeks before I was in the hospital with the intestinal infection."

The four-times overall World Cup champion is yet to set an exact date for a return to action, although she hopes to be able to do so in January.

"I want to thank my sponsors for their continued support," she said. "Most of all I want to thank my fans for all of the kind words and love you have shared with me. I wish all of you a happy and healthy holiday and look forward to getting back on the mountain in the new year.

US women's head coach Alex Hoedlmoser said how soon Vonn returns to the slopes “depends on how she’s feeling and exactly what her condition is".

“She’s going home for now,” Hoedlmoser added. “We’ll have to see when she’s ready. It’s a little bit unknown but the plan is to get her back strong. ... With the way the schedule has been and all the travel she just hasn’t had a chance to get back to strength. We want her back at full strength.”

Vonn will certainly miss the races in Are, Sweden this week and probably those in Semmering, Austria, on December 28 and 29.

“It’s possible she’ll skip Semmering, so that would mean her next races would be in January,” Hoedlmoser added.

Vonn got off to a blistering start to this season's World Cup, winning three straight speed races at Lake Louise before claiming victory in the super-G at St Moritz earlier this month - her 57th career win.

However, having skipped several races due to her stay in hospital - and with more to be missed over the coming weeks - Vonn's bid to defend her overall title is now in jeopardy.

She currently sits in fourth place in the standings, behind Tina Maze, Maria Hoefl-Riesch and - after the weekend's results - Kathrin Zettel.