Road To The Olympic Games

Alpine Skiing

Dustin Cook, facing knee surgery, seeks teammates' advice

Canadian alpine skier Dustin Cook has never had surgery before, but advice from his teammates helps him to find positivity in a negative situation.

'I'm joining a club I never wanted to join,' alpine skier says after torn ligaments

Instead of continuing his momentum from last season, Canadian alpine skier Dustin Cook heads into surgery this November to repair ligaments in his right knee. Cook's recovery will prevent him from competing in the 2015-16 season. (Jonas Ericsson/Getty Images)

It is one thing for Dustin Cook to race down a steep, icy mountainside at up to 80 kilometres per hour while maintaining strength, agility, balance and technique. It's quite another to go under the knife.

Cook, 26, tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee, as well as his right adductor, during a training run in Austria on Oct. 21. He's been hopping around on crutches since then; he has surgery on Nov. 12.

"The only thing I'm really scared about is the surgery," Cook, 26, told CBC Sports. "I have no idea what to expect."

Fortunately for Cook, a number of his teammates can fill him in. Jan HudecManny Osborne-Paradis and Erik Guay have all had knee surgery; Hudec alone has had it eight times, while Guay has had it six.

"I'm joining a club I never wanted to join," said Cook, who had a breakthrough season in 2014-15."But I think every skier is going to have to join it, and all of [my teammates] have gone through it. So I've got a good support team behind me to let me know the ins and outs of this unfortunate incident."

"In downhill ski racing, to not be injured and not feel injured while you're skiing is pretty impressive, and not many athletes get to survive an entire career feeling that way," said Hudec. "I ski in some sort of pain all the time."

For every step you move forward, there's usually three [steps] back.- Manny Osborne-Paradis, alpine skier

For Cook, Hudec said, the most frustrating thing is that the injury happened early in the season.

"That's ... the most difficult thing mentally to get over," he said.  "Because Dustin, like all of us, he's really an incredibly strong athlete, physically motivated and disciplined, so that isn't going to be the issue coming back. It's going to be the mental stuff getting past that barrier."

Cook had high hopes for the season, after three World Cup podium finishes in 2014-15 and a fifth-place ranking in the super-G.

"So at least I know exactly how I feel when I'm skiing well, how it feels to win a World Cup, all that kind of stuff. So now I can just get this better and get back to doing what I do."

"There's no good advice," said three-time World Cup champion Osborne-Paradis. "For every step you move forward, there's usually three [steps] back. Then there's a day you go 10 steps forward and you're on fire, and then you go back five more.

"It's kind of just take it day by day."

And, if all else fails, "we use humour to get over this stuff," said Hudec. "Because at the end of the day, you have to." 

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