Crashing – Fractures, Tears and Concussions.
September 29th, 2017
We know it can be career ending. We understand there can be psychological damage and yet we embrace, relish and feed off the risk every time we snap into our ski bindings and launch ourselves from the start gate.
It was my fourth training run of the day, a blue sky glacier morning, crispy icy snow – a ski-racers dream.
Bite and grab onto the surface as you roll from edge to edge with bursts of acceleration on the ice as the ski flattens. Fast snow means more speed into the turns, more speed into the turns means greater forces through the body, greater forces means more resistance and Newton’s third Law ‘for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’ propels you into the next arc.
The terrain was textbook. Steep icy pitch followed by a key flat section creating the infamous compression.
Two options were available. Work on consistency, maintaining discipline from start to finish, minimising mistakes or run a straight line into the steep, feel the forces acting through the body and find a line that will win races this winter.
Carrying speed out of these compressions is where competitions are won or lost. Risk is a necessity. It may only be training but if you can’t find the speed in training you definitely won’t touch it on race day.
86km/h was my GPS speed as I flew directly and aggressively down the steep into the compression. It was my highest speed of the morning, but I could feel that my body was twisted.
Core strength is a key component of land training to counter this, but nothing can train for these forces. My line was off and discipline compromised. I was vulnerable.
I couldn’t hold any longer and everything slowed. It started through my right arm, then back, head and knee. I rolled twisted and rattled before sliding to a halt.
I spend every day of the year connecting mind and muscle through training, and I knew something was wrong. My femur collided with force into my tibia; the cartilage had splintered leaving the joint raw and bare. I was flown home for surgery.
Ski racing is unpredictable – every run is different. At high altitude each breath counts and one lapse in focus can put you out of the game.
Why do it…? Because winning is worth it.