It is not often 25th position in ski race can be celebrated as a significant sporting achievement. It was on Friday. The British ski racer, Chemmy Alcott, had her comeback race after an horrific crash two years ago that almost ended her career.
Sunday December 2, 2012 - Email this article to a friend
Chemmy Alcott looked just like any other of the world cup skiers as she waited in the starting area of the Lake Louise downhill area in Canada.
Dressed in her tight and colourful racing cat suit she was visualising the course and running through her pre-race routine.
There were nerves and tension.
The race was also disrupted by the weather as thick cloud came rolling in and the officials deemed it too dangerous for the racers to hurl themselves down a course of sheet ice. The racers had to wait for the visibility to clear.
What thoughts must have been running through Chemmy's head as she prepared?
Two years ago on the same course Britain's Number 1 female alpine ski racer hit a jump badly on a training run. She lost balance in mid-air and crashed to the ground with both skis coming off as her legs split apart.
She slid down the icy course and it was obvious she was injured.
Her screams were heard by the medics as they rushed to help her.
The details are probably too gruesome to go into but she broke her leg badly and there was an open fracture with a bone in her right leg protruding. Her screams were only silenced as the morphine did its job.
She was airlifted to hospital by emergency helicopter with her friend and fellow racer, Julia Mancuso by her side. Julia held her hand and offering what comfort she could.
Once in hospital the surgeons did an amazing job. However it was feared she might never walk properly again, let alone ski.
It was the lowest point in her career and yet further bad news was to come.
As she began her re-habilitation with a determination to race again her funding was cut from the UK governing body of snowsports. All of it.
"It wasn't even about the money, it was about being written off as an athlete in my prime. The Federation chose not to support me, but all I can do about that is use it as a chip on my shoulder to go out there to prove them wrong and show I will succeed without them," she said.
Undeterred though she sought sponsorship and was determined to get back to where she wanted to be. A serious contender on the World Cup circuit and an Olympic medal prospect for Sochi 2014.
Her story and name came to a wider audience when she competed in the ITV programme, Dancing On Ice. The money she earned was used to fund her training programme. It is not a cheap business competing in World Cup skiing events around the world without the backing of a team.
She trained, trained and trained and slowly her fitness returned.
Fast forward to Friday November 30th 2012 and Chemmy had reached her first goal. The start gate of a World Cup race.
The fact that she chose Lake Louise, the scene of her accident, as the location for her return was brave.
The course itself was one challenge - her mental demons and worries were quite another. She was though determined to savour the moment of her return.
"I feel weirdly peaceful. I know the hill, I know the terrain, I know I will be nervous. Don't get me wrong I am as ambitious as ever and I want to be fast - but I don't want that competitiveness to get in the way of me enjoying this momentous two minutes that I've fought so hard to be part of my life," she said just before the race.
Her training runs earlier in the week had gone OK though her times were not that impressive with her times well down the field. But on race day she was the Chemmy of old.
Attacking the course. Carving a sweet line down and at the end she shot through the finish line with gusto and more than a sense of relief for those watching.
She was back on skis, proving she could do it and she even gained World Cup points too.
To many of the spectators watching from the side or on TV she was just another racer who finished someway down the field. For those of us who knew the background it was an amazing sporting story of triumph over adversity.
Here at PlanetSKI we have followed her story.
From the accident itself, the body blow of her funding being withdraw. To her time in the media spotlight with her performances on Dancing on Ice.
Our, by co-incidence, content editor, James Cove, even appeared on BBC Radio 4 with her earlier this month talking about the state of the winter ski industry. For the interview itself here it is on the BBC IPlayer and it can be found starting from 42.14.
There are many racing stories this weekend with Lindsey Vonn winning the Lake Louise downhill after a mystery bug put her in hospital for 2 nights. The men are battling it out on the legendary Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek, USA.
For us at PlanetSKI there is only one story. The brave return of Chemmy Alcott.
Her boyfriend, the Team GB racer, Dougie Crawford, has been 100% supportive.
"Such a proud boyfriend right now! So happy for Team Chemmy making her comeback and straight in making points! All despite awful weather and a big wait at the start! Tough cookie!" he said.
Praise has also come from the former British racer, Konrad Bartelski.
"Congratulations to Chemmy Alcott to scored World Points in her first race back, two years after her awful accident on the very same downhill course, is more than a tremendous achievement. Really magnificent. And she has done it on her own. Credit to Chemmy."
Welcome back Chemmy we have missed you.
Update: In the second Lake Louise downhill British fans were left fuming. Eurosport cut out of the live coverage of Chemmy racing for an advert break and to then show a repeat of the winning run of Lindsey Vonn. See here for the full details on Racer Ready. If you want to cpomplain pleaed do.
We are. Shame on them.
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