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by Ambassador Cara Brown
Last year I had my best season ever. I had moved into the top 200 in the World rankings, won my last 3 races, won my National Championships and I was looking forward to be in peak form for the World Championships in 10 months’ time. Unfortunately, my plan came crashing down when I tore my ACL in my left knee on the 5th of April.
April 2016 - 2 Weeks after my crash.
I waited 6 weeks for my surgery and after that I was straight into rehab to get back on skis as soon as possible. My rehab was great, my knee responded well to everything I pushed it to do and at the end of my 6 months I was the fittest I had ever been.
May 2016 - 1 day post op!
The road bike became my new best friend in rehab... at least it meant I could go over 60kmph again!
2 months into my rehab I hiked back up to the spot where I crashed and finished the turn I had been unable to finish 2 months before! (July 2016)
To begin with my training went well, it didn’t seem like I had lost too much of my original skiing and I was having so much fun. In January, I did my first races, it was a bit of a shock to the system! I was finishing about 3 seconds behind girls I used to beat and I felt like I was giving it my all. I was so frustrated and upset that I had to go through an injury that had set me back whilst everyone else could keep training to get faster. Still, I persevered through a few more races before my head gave in. I was racing in an easy race in Les Arcs, France. I only made it about 10 seconds into the course before I caught my ski in a hole and it pushed my left knee into extension. I felt a small pull up the back of my knee and immediately stopped and skied out. I knew my knee was fine but I was inconsolable. That was the day I realised that my problem was mental not physical.
Alpine skiing requires you to push yourself, take risks and constantly test your limits, much like all the action sports all us girls do! I didn’t want to take any risks, I was so scared to reinjure my myself, not because of the physical pain but I didn’t want to go through the mental pain again. I didn’t realise it at the time but understanding my problem was the first step I needed to take to get back to full strength. I took a week off and went to see my sports psychologist who helped calm me down and show me that every athlete goes through something like this when they’re coming back from a big injury. He also explained to me that all it would take would be one day where I said to myself: “this is it, your knee is strong, you’re strong, just ski fast and give it your all”. Simple but effective: the next day I was winning the timing in training and finally feeling like I was taking risks.
That training day was 2 months ago, I’ve had more bad days than good ones since then but things are definitely getting better now. The other day I raced in Les Menuires, in France. In alpine skiing, we have two runs and the fastest total time over both runs is the winner. I was winning first run by 0.5 seconds. It was a relief to know that I could still ski fast! However, my second run didn’t go to plan. I thought I had skied well, made no mistakes but I was slow and finished in fourth place overall. It’s so frustrating to be slow without knowing why but it’s a huge part of returning from injury. You have to relearn what it feels like to be fast and what it feels like to be slow, you can’t rush it, it’s like learning a new skill or trick but it will come back with patience and hard work!
After finding out I had qualified for the World Championships! February 2017
One of the biggest things I learnt this season was understanding whether on race day you had really given it your 100% of THAT DAY. Your 100% varies every day and if you’ve gone out and given in your all and it wasn’t the result you wanted then you can’t beat yourself up about it. Give yourself a break, you did your best, it’s not possible to do more. Look towards the next day and learn to be thankful that there is a “next day”!
Another thing that really helped me is to direct my energy in the right place. For example, on a race day the things I can’t control are where the race is, the conditions, the course set, the competition and how the competition is going to perform. If I spend time worrying about any of those things then I am wasting my energy and time that could be spent on things like my equipment, my warm up and my strengths. When you forget about the stuff you can’t change your mind frees up and you have more time to focus on the most important thing: you.
Although it’s sometimes hard to remember my injury has already shown me some real positives. I’m now much more aware of my body when I’m skiing and it makes me lighter on the snow and a better glider which is vital for flat hills. It’s also taught me that I can overcome anything I set my mind to. It has taught me patience and to listen to my body and my mind. Finally, it has taught me appreciation. Every day spent on snow is a good day, ignore the times, the position, the competition, enjoy your sport and appreciate every second of it.
Back on top: In first place at the Delancey British Championships Super G