Written by Breezy Johnson
4/3/2019: 7 months post injury, 210 days post injury, 197 days post-op
It’s been a while since I last wrote; I think these pieces have been more important for me than you. And I think that being back on skis, feeling as though I was finally breaking down the barriers I had feared for months meant that I didn’t need to write as much. Sure, there were tough moments. Every World Cup race hurt, not my knee, but my heart. Physically my chest lurched every time I watched someone push out of a start gate. But, I was moving. I was skiing, and I had day-to-day goals to accomplish. I wasn’t sitting with my knee in the air, feeling misery crush me. I was out moving, skiing, feeling the air on my face and beginning to believe that everything might be alright.
Some people wonder, why undertake this journey at all? Or perhaps, rather, why open yourself back up to going through this heart-wrenching experience. Why ski when it seems the sport has one of the highest injury rates? A former athlete, who went through not one but five ACL injuries shocked me recently saying, ‘If I could, I’d have retired after the first one.’ But I know why I do it. I know why I will fight, have fought, like a gladiator to return to the race course that might – though I shiver to imagine it – one day tear me apart again. As I got back into gates last week, I was reminded why I never once questioned my desire to return to the sport. And now, with the feeling of ripping past super-G gates fresh on my mind, I thought I would elaborate on why anyone would pursue this sport, given the risks.
I am currently headed home after my first block of skiing in gates. Just a week ago I skied around a gate for the first time in almost seven months! Just two days ago I pushed out of the start of a super-G set. And, everything that I love about the sport washed over me again, and reminded me even more viscerally how amazing this sport is and how glad I am to be back. And, knowing intuitively how much more I love racing World Cup speed, opened my eyes to the reason I am working as hard as I am to return to that pinnacle of the sport.
I am crying thinking about it. You can’t see it, but I am. I visualized it for months. But the feeling itself…that was something else. You can’t imagine what the feeling of bumps sliding under an arcing ski at 60 miles per hour does to me. Goosebumps. You can’t fake the gorgeous sunrise that made up for the 4:45am wake-up. And then the intellectual part of me lit up looking at delays and sidehills in inspection. And finally it all came together. I pushed out of the start and felt that rush of adrenaline, the narrowing of my focus. Just me and the course. This is why I do it. Because it makes me feel alive.
I am blessed, in that it feels like I never left. I don’t mean for that to sound arrogant. Rather, I say it with both elation and giddy excitement. I felt so relieved that when I returned, my body did not rebel on my mind, but they worked together in harmony and I skied just as well as I remember. I still have a long way to go. I still want more experience under my belt. But, I have a whole summer to get that experience. And, I’m more determined than ever to continue improving myself, because I didn’t go through all of this to be as good as I ever was. I want to be better.
Release courtesy of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.