Lindsey announced that she will be sitting out for the World Cup Opening in Sölden this week. Although her skiing schedule is on a day by day basis, she looks forward to starting her season off with all her friends and family on our home turf in Beaver Creek Colorado. “I’m far ahead of where I thought I would be,” she says “but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”
Being competitive and pushing your limits is what makes an athlete successful; pushing your limits when injured makes an athlete retired. Like Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls, it’s better to sit out one game or one race as a precaution than to be forced to sit out because you pushed your body too far.
Although this is a wise decision, it’s pretty surprising. When it comes to skiing Lindsey has never excluded an ounce of patience. If she wants to go, she goes, there’s no stopping her. A story that never gets old, and that of course I will share with you, is the time Lindsey was in Torino, Italy right after her injury in the training runs before the 2006 Olympic races. It was a devastating crash, one that made me cringe every time I accidently saw it flash up on the 6 o’clock news. But when Lindsey got the results back that she was in better condition than her fall suggested: she only bruised her pelvis and with the reluctance that she still could (not should) race, she pulled out her IV herself and made a break for it down the hospital corridors—hospital gown and all. Fortunately, she couldn’t find the exit fast enough before a nurse caught up to her.
Lindsey always says that everything happens for a reason. My philosophy is that everything happens: it’s your job to take something out of that situation—good or bad. So this knee injury happened. It’s the worst injury to date and the longest time Lindsey’s been off her skis. Lindsey cried for about 15 minutes in the emergency room before she knew the worst of her injuries. That’s it. She didn’t complain and she didn’t feel sorry for herself. I saw how sad and disappointed she was leaving Schladming but she chose, in that emergency room, to focus on the future.
Day one after her surgery she was already starting physical therapy. Weeks later and she could bend her knee to 90 degrees; months passed and she could walk again; now, 9 months of blood, sweat, and tears and she’s back in Austria.
“Mentally I’m really excited to ski, but physically I’m not aggressive enough.” says Lindsey. Being a veteran on the World Cup, Lindsey knows how much training she needs, how things should feel, and more importantly, how they shouldn’t. In the past Lindsey only needed four training runs during her practice. Compare that to when she was just starting out on our hometown ski hill in Minnesota taking 15 runs a night. Being a ski racer means you need to practice for technique, timing, angles, snow conditions, and equipment. It’s not a sport that you can jump into. It’s a sport with many different variables that all need to be controlled and perfected in order to become successful.
What Lindsey has is a great deal of talent, but the truest of her accomplishments, and what every athlete strives for, is her consistency. Consistency develops from mental and physical strength. And, as Lindsey knows, the only way to get to this equilibrium between confidence and stability is through repetition. “You can be as mentally prepared as you want to be, but without training, you’re not going to get the results you want. I just need more training. Right now, I’m working on technique and timing. You can tell that right now I’ve only trained gates for 10 days so far. I’ve had to ease my way into it.” Lindsey says “I’m not afraid. I trust my knee. I’m just not as aggressive as I was and not as fast as I could be.”
When you become an experienced skier your body naturally, through practice, knows how to move. Now Lindsey has had to start over and although she’s not starting from zero, it takes time to get back to competing at a World Cup level. Lindsey says, “Now I have this urgency I had when I was young—this motivation to make up for lost time.”
There is a reason why Lindsey is stronger than she was, but it’s not because of the mysteries of destiny, it’s because of hard work. She lost a lot, and gained it back. It was a slow process and it’s still progressing. As Lindsey gets back into her normal winter routine, we patiently await her return to the World Cup races. With a lot of training ahead of her and a little bit of patience, Lindsey will make the wait worthwhile.