Gisin returns to racing three weeks after injury
Special to the Daily
BEAVER CREEK — In all the talk about injuries and comebacks, one story that may have flown under the radar the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships is that of Swiss skier Dominique Gisin. You might remember her from the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where she tied Tina Maze for the downhill gold medal.
The 29-year-old veteran, who was poised to become the first female fighter pilot in the Swiss military if not for her ski racing career, was hoping to find some of that Olympic fire in these World Championships.
But on Jan. 19, Gisin crashed in a World Cup race in Cortina, Italy, fracturing the tibia bone in her right knee. After a career riddled by crashes that led to nine knee surgeries, for once, things were looking up this time for the Swiss skier, and no surgery was required.
However, with a recovery period that still called for several weeks of rest, it looked unlikely that the Swiss skier would be able to race in Vail/Beaver Creek. After ramping up her recovery plan to an around-the-clock commitment, Gisin had to miss the downhill and super G last week, but was cleared to start in the giant slalom on Thursday.
“It was just too early,” Gisin said of starting in last week’s speed races. “A week later was all I needed. The (fracture) is in a place where there’s not a lot of pressure. That’s why I can ski.”
Gisin ended up 19th on Thursday, a result she was frustrated with, particularly after all the work she put into the last three weeks of preparation following her crash.
“It was hell of a ride the last three weeks,” she said after the race. “It’s crazy I made it. It’s been crazy for three weeks. We trained all day. We recovered all day. I had my physiotherapy like three times a day, water therapy … everything. I just worked the hardest I could to get here.”
The Olympic downhill champion, in spite of her best efforts, was in tears after the first run Thursday, after which she ended up in 25th place, 2.59 seconds behind leader and eventual race winner Anna Fenninger.
“I trained really good in the past days and today I just wasn’t ready. I couldn’t find my courage,” she said. “The knee is good. It just hurts that in the end I worked so hard and then couldn’t make my mind up. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s not easy to come back all the time … after one more crash. You just have to figure it out.”
The queen of coming back from injury, when asked how many knee surgeries she’s had, Gisin said, “too many to count.”
But her Olympic gold — the first medal of her long career after a four-year hiatus of victories that included at least one ACL surgery and long recovery — proves that she resilience few other ski racers possess. Even if she isn’t walking away from Vail/Beaver Creek with any medals, she’s skiing away, and that’s what matters most.
“I wish I could have skied a little more free in my mind but in the end I’m very, very thankful to my knees that they were so good,” she said. “I’ll try to get it back. It’s not what I was aiming to do here, but it’s a good step into the right direction. There will be other races this season so I will keep trying to go down that path. And hope to finally reach the top again.”