It's hard to wrap up this season of snow sports without looking at the great extremes it brought us. It's because of these extremes that many in society wonder why athletes do this.
Why do we choose to put ourselves in such extreme circumstances, knowing we face serious injury and possibly death? Having lost two great athletes in Sarah Burke
and Nik Zoricic
this year, questions and concerns within the snow sport community have never been louder or more fervent.
Though it doesn't make headlines, athletes continue to face enormous wear and tear on their bodies, sometimes leading to surgery. Sadly, athletes like Beat Feuz, Resi Stiegler, Michaela Kirchgasser, Reinfried Herbst and Brad Spence wrapped up their seasons on the operating table.
So why keep doing it?
It's simple. It's because of athletes like Jan Hudec, Erin Mielzinsky, Ben Thomsen, Marie-Michele Gagnon and Anna Goodman, to name but a few. They've defied the odds, and in doing so found ways to inspire us all.A roller-coaster worth riding
By nature, sport is filled with extremes. The limits are being pushed further in every genre of sport as the fine line between success and failure gets ever thinner. The line between safety and injury is also thinning as the margins separating top athletes shrink.
On the flip side, these extremes can also translate emotionally. There aren't many activities in life that leave you in tears due to under-performance, or fist-pumping elation when success is reached. Most of life is spent in the grey area between these extremes. But not in sport.
It's tasting those moments of success, however large or small, that brings athletes back again and again. It feels good to improve, it feels great to win, and it feels amazing to realize a dream. Even if you never reach your dreams, it's a roller-coaster worth riding since the experiences and growth along the way are so valuable.Hudec's inspiring comeback
No athlete has ridden as crazy a roller-coaster or ridden it as well as Jan Hudec. This season, at the age of 30, after countless knee surgeries, he made it healthy through an entire alpine skiing season. That's unusual in Jan's world. And not only was he healthy, he was fast.
Jan scored points (awarded to the top 30 finishers) in every World Cup downhill and super-G he entered.
"I'm pretty stoked about that," said Jan, who finished the season in ninth place in the downhill standings and sixth in the Super G. Along the way he earned his first downhill World Cup victory since 2007
and his first-ever super-G podium. And, for the first time, Jan competed in the entire World Cup circuit. This included the famed Kitzbuehel course, where he became the oldest rookie to run the treacherous track.
It's the battles Jan fought to get here that made this year so special. With his son Oakley cheering him on, "Daddy Power" has kept Jan going strong.
Jan's teammate Ben Thomsen is another performer to be noted this season. Not long ago he was barely holding onto his dreams in ski racing as he was getting counted out for not progressing quickly enough. Working construction and collecting bottles for extra money helped him continue working towards his goals.
Now he's the newest member of the Canadian Cowboys after his World Cup podium on Sochi's 2014 Olympic track. Truly a tale to remind us why we work so hard - even when insurmountable odds seem stacked against us. Erin Mielzynski's stunning upset
After 41 years without a Canadian slalom victory, you may start to think it's impossible. Yet Erin Mielzynski proved that logic wrong by climbing to the top step
of a World Cup slalom podium in Germany.
This season our women's team reached two World Cup podiums in the slalom. Both young, hard-working and talented, Erin Mielzynski and Marie-Michele Gagnon beat the odds and stood on the medal stand. It was incredible to see their smiles and elation as their dreams came true.
Anna Goodman is another example of strength and humility, and is possibly the best teammate anyone could ask for. She chose to retire this year in style, doing her last run in a banana suit (Anna Banana). The celebrations for her were great examples of this community's support and atmosphere. That's one of the biggest reasons athletes keep coming back: the people.
Stories like these keep us going, keep the dream alive, and make all the hard work, bumps and bruises worth it.
Still, our sports must move towards safer standards to ensure athletes risk only defeat in their efforts to win. Safety survey
As part of my commitment to help us move forward safely, this survey was developed by athletes for athletes. It's our hope that the answers will help us better understand what athletes are going through and see patterns and trends that we can adapt to in order to keep them safer and healthier.
This study is in partnership with Alpine Canada, the University of Calgary, and has been approved by the Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board.
I'd like to ask all FIS athletes 15 and older to fill out this survey. See if you fit the criteria for our research. It takes less than one minute to fill out if you don't fit the criteria, and about 10 minutes if you do. The more responses we get, the better we can help make alpine skiing a safer sport.
Here's the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AlpineAthleteInjuryDebrief
Spread the word!
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