It’s been a long road for the U.S. women’s speed team. By the end of the 2018/19 World Cup season, the only dedicated member of the group that remained healthy and uninjured was World Cup newbie, Alice Merryweather. Lindsey Vonn made her exit at World Championships as the winningest woman in alpine history. Laurenne Ross took a spill prior to Are, Sweden and underwent a major reconstructive operation on her left knee at the end of March. And their teammates had yet to return to snow after months of rehab due to major surgeries as well.
The outlook at the end of the season seemed dismal, but as of the last month, things are looking up for the self-dubbed ‘Speed Unicorns’. Not only has Breezy Johnson returned to snow, but as of April 23rd, Alice McKennis and Jacqueline Wiles have returned to snow as well.
Back in February of 2018, just days before the Olympics, Wiles skied out in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen downhill. After being airlifted off the course, she was diagnosed with an ACL tear, LCL tear, a fracture of the left fibula and tibia, and a torn meniscus that required reconstruction.
A long and grueling recovery has led to an extra special return to snow for Wiles. She wrote in an Instagram post after her first day back on skis, “One year, two months, and 20 days later and finally back on skis! Today was something special. Thanks to all who stuck by with support and encouragement throughout this journey.”
In May of 2018, McKennis also fractured her left tibia and fibula while coaching the American Downhiller camp at Mammoth Mountain. That injury turned into an even bigger monster to tackle when scarring from her operation prevented her tendons from working properly, and she had to back under the knife.
In her Instagram post about her return, McKennis wrote, “All the suffering, pain, five surgeries, sweat, hard work, and determination is starting to pay off! Still, lots of work to be done but it again feels possible!”
McKennis also made sure to point the figure back towards 26-year-old Wiles, adding, “To share the slopes with Jacqueline Wiles was pretty special too – this woman has fought so hard to make it back after her devastating injury and it was so inspiring to see her back on snow after the struggles she has endured.”
Both athletes are working to rejoin their teammates on the World Cup circuit in the 2019-2020 season and will continue to assess their readiness over the course of the summer.