Lienz: Sarah Schleper returns to World Cup after back surgery, finishes 13thSarah Schleper’s back. After sitting out the World Cup season thus far, the Colorado tech specialist returned to racing this weekend in Lienz, Austria. Schleper had been suffering from a herniated disk in her lower back a painful injury that forced her to get surgery on Nov. 13.
‘It’s been kind of a long struggle’ said Schleper, who got back into gates on a special Christmas Day training session with U.S. Ski Team coach Stever Bartlett. ‘It feels good. I’m excited. I really like the lifestyle and just being on the road and being with the girls. I just wish I had a little more mileage so I can be up to tempo.’
Schleper failed to qualify for the second run in the Lienz giant slalom Wednesday, but she looked strong Thursday and nailed the first run. Starting with bib No. 2 (her standings were preserved through her hiatus), Schleper finished ninth in the first run and finished the race 13th.
‘It definitely helped to have the good start position’ said Schleper, who also trained the day after Christmas.
Schleper aggravated a chronic disc injury in October, just before the World Cup opener in Soelden, Austria. ‘It was the same injury, but it felt totally different’ she said. ‘I couldn’t stand up for more than five minutes. I had a whole bunch of pain in my leg. I had to sit down all the time. Couldn’t walk.’
Since then, her life has been one of back spasms, MRIs, second opinions from European doctors and careful rehabilitation. One of the hardest things was watching the World Cup season from afar, wondering if she’d get back in time to try to qualify for the Olympics.
‘After a while I just stopped watching, because I just wanted to be there’ she said. ‘And I had other things, like trying to get healthy.’
Now that she’s back on tour, Schleper said she feels a little out of practice, but is skiing pain free.
‘It was a little stiff between runs’ said Schleper after the race. ‘But I’m so, so happy.’