American ski racing prodigy Tommy Ford’s name hasn’t shown up on results sheets in a couple years, but that may be about to change. In mid-January of 2013, Ford was free skiing in La Clusaz, France when he took a nasty fall and broke his femur. Two seasons later he’s gearing up to make a return to competitive skiing.
It has been, he says, “quite the ordeal.”
Going back to that ill-fated January day in 2013, Ford was airlifted to Annecy for immediate surgery. There was nothing simple about his injury. It was a compound fracture of the biggest bone in the body. A steel rod was attached and he spent nine days in hospital before he was well enough to travel back to the U.S.
Rehabilitation went well and he improved quickly with good mobility and blood flow, but it wasn’t quite enough that fall so he elected to return to Dartmouth College and enroll in classes for the winter instead of racing. At the end of the next fall semester he got back on snow for some early training at Copper Mountain.
“I felt good skiing at Copper. It was the first time I was really moving around a lot. But I still had that rod in my leg,” he said, “and I wanted it out.”
“My recovery is slower than what is normal. I made clear I wanted to take my time and do this really well. There are a few screw holes, but the healing is going well. I’m in the midst of getting back the strength. This (competition) year I’ll assess where the body is at and the skills. When I feel ready and the coaches agree I’ll jump into some races. The following season I hope to get going and move to the top.”
In the meantime he completed his major in studio arts – and has a sculpture on display in the Metropolis Art Exhibit at Dartmouth.
“I learned lots,” he said, “and look forward to working with (my professors) in the future.”
“It was nice,” he added, “to have the opportunity to be normal.” Having been named to the national ski team as a teenager, racing had been the sole focal point of his life. He has won eight national titles and a World Junior Championship medal. He’s been an Olympian and a member of a World Championship team. Ford has raced on the World Cup, and scored seven times in the 2013 season before his January 15 mishap.
The time off, he feels, was just what he needed. “It has motivated me to really excel. I think I can, and now is the time.”
Readers can keep further tabs on Ford via his (sporadically updated) blog.