After receiving her 12th, or maybe it’s her 11th (she’s not sure), major blow to the body in PyeongChang this February, Resi Stiegler has become a veteran when it comes to putting the past behind her.
“I’ve always been coming back,” she says defiantly. “But this one kind of hurt my feelings, if you will, a little bit more maybe.”
A bucket handle tear of the meniscus, where the cartilage that cushions impact in the knee lifts off the bone like a bucket handle and must be sewn back down, is a seemingly lucky injury in relative terms. She suffered no ACL damage, and there was no need to have anything replaced or removed. But the mental toll injuries take on an athlete can sometimes outweigh the physical burden of returning to snow.
“Just on a personal level, it’s hard to come back that many times, and it’s hard to put everything on the line. It can be depressing and kind of devastating, and then the one good thing that I have somewhere in my body is just like ‘keep moving forward.'”
Since Stiegler entered the World Cup circuit in 2002, she’s had 167 starts, earned a place on the podium, and participated in three Olympic games. In 2017, she placed 11th in the slalom at the World Cup Championships in St.Moritz.
It’s clear her career and experience have, and should, precede the reputation of her injuries. But the amount of times she has had to make a “comeback” seems to be the only story about her that’s been told.
“It’s been hard because, obviously, my career went a little bit differently than I planned with a lot of injuries, then a lot of people just end up talking about them the whole time. I know that I have a lot of them, but I try and just ski and be stoked about where I’ve come from,” Stiegler said.
Entering the 2018/19 season, Stiegler is doing just that. When SRM caught up with her at camp in Saas Fee, the good vibes were palpable. The training, the team, and the overall energy was, as she said “everything that you could dream of.”
Speaking with her, it’s apparent that the company she keeps adds to the atmosphere she needs to persevere. Whether it be the friendships she’s found in teammates Nina O’Brien and Tricia Mangan, or the unwavering support from her coach Magnus Andersson, the people she surrounds herself with plays a huge role in setting the tone for the season.
“It’s been great to have that support and teamwork and just zest for life right now, it’s really adding to my happiness, which always helps with my skiing,” Stiegler said.
On top of spending time with her team, this summer she has focused on what she loves most, having fun and travelling. While skiing is her number one priority, she knows that she thrives in a healthy environment. It takes work being on the road and juggling her career, but it keeps things interesting.
“For me, I just have to adventure a lot in my life. I want to see the world, I want to have experiences. That’s my school, it’s traveling, and learning from other people and having these amazing journeys with other people. This summer has been kind of fun because there have been new things happening for me,” Stiegler said.
Like any other top athlete, she has put everything she has into her sport. At 32, she has no plans of slowing down. Feeding off the good energy she’s gathered this summer, her intensity and hunger for success has only increased.
“I’m not here to get top fifteens. I’m here to get medals and podiums,” she said.
Just a few days ago, Stiegler took to Instagram to publicly confirm this sentiment in her own words and on her own terms.
“I’m making this comeback mine,” she wrote.
Injuries are a part of the fine print when you sign your life away to an athletic passion, and coming back from them, at any level, is physically and mentally demanding. But injuries are blips in long-term careers; minor in comparison to the hours of hard training and dedication that athletes must input in order to receive a positive output.
In short, Resi Stiegler is tired of talking about her injuries, and she has good reason to be. Her tenacity, persistence, and will on and off the mountain have proved that time and time again – when she gets knocked down, she gets back up.
Resi Stiegler is more than the single story she has been given. So this season, perhaps instead, let the talk of the town be her seventeen year career, her heartfelt approach and the results that lie ahead. If she can’t even keep track of her injuries, why should we?