Olympic Athletes Overcome Injury to Compete on Biggest Stage

A career-threatening crash, torn ACL and last-minute appendectomy can’t keep Olympians from Pyeongchang

When the chance to compete on the biggest stage comes around just once every four years, athletes will endure a year-long comeback, an emergency surgery or searing pain. A snowboarder, a bobsledder and a freestyle skier have proved that hockey players aren’t the only tough athletes at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

American bobsledder Justin Olsen arrived in South Korea prepared to make his Olympic debut as a pilot after competing on four-man bobsled teams in 2010 and 2014. Then, on Feb. 5 — just two days before unofficial training began — Olsen was admitted to a hospital in Gangneug with acute appendicitis. His appendectomy completed, the three-time Olympian still plans to compete.

Official training runs for two-man bobsled will start Feb. 15 with competition slated for Feb. 18-19, while the four-man event will begin on Feb. 24. Despite the short turnaround, Olsen will try to be back for the first training run — just a 10-day turnaround — and has the support of Team USA.

"He's shown us over the years that he's capable of overcoming adversity and coming out on top," USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele said. "We know he's going to do what he can within his power to be at the starting line on race day. There's no question he's mentally ready."

On the slopes, Canadian skier Philippe Marquis is attempting a remarkable, yet painful, feat. He will try to earn an Olympic medal in moguls with a torn ACL in his right knee. After he tore the ligament during a January run in Utah, the 28-year-old decided to postpone surgery until after the Olympics.

"In my head I've got one more day, (a) couple more runs and I'll go do surgery at the end of the month and turn the page on the Olympics and have great memories," he said. "That's something I'll look back on in a couple months, couple years and I'll be so satisfied, so blessed that I fought the whole way."

Marquis, who finished ninth in moguls at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, completed step one Friday night when he qualified for the medal round with a score of 77.77. The men’s moguls finals are Monday night.

Also on the slopes, albeit on a snowboard, is Canadian Mark McMorris, who has battled all the way back from a crash that nearly ended his career in March 2017.

McMorris ran into a tree during a run in British Columbia and suffered a collapsed lung, a ruptured spleen and broke 17 bones, including his jaw, arm and pelvis, among other injuries. A helicopter airlifted the him off the mountain and to a hospital for treatment.

Ten months later, McMorris competed at the X Games, where he is a four-time Slopestyle gold medalist in a tuneup for the Olympics. Fully healthy, Pyeongchang should be a piece of cake for the 24-year-old, who earned a bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, while snowboarding with a broken rib.

"I'm stoked," McMorris, who will participate in Slopestyle and Big Air, said. “I didn't think I'd be here. I'm going to save all the magic for [the final].”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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