Schleper plans to take year off after knee injury |

Schleper plans to take year off after knee injury

Sarah Schleper3 SM 3-22

VAIL – Vail Olympian Sarah Schleper will have to miss the U.S. Alpine Championships this week. She already missed the World Cup Finals, and the remainder of World Cup events after the Olympics. She is also planning on skipping all of next World Cup season.Schleper proved that she could bounce back quickly from back surgery. Six weeks after surgery last November, she was racing again on the World Cup, skiing into the top 15, then posted the top American result with a 10th place in the women’s Olympic slalom event.Then, Schleper was nearing the end of her first race after the Olympics – the World Cup giant slalom in Hafjell, Norway on March 5 – when she crashed hard. She tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her left knee. “I caught an edge,” said the 27-year-old U.S. Ski Team veteran. “I don’t remember much about the crash, but you don’t remember much about any race. The snow was really hard and aggressive. I remember catching an edge on one gate and sliding on my side through the next panel.”Schleper, who said she would have likely finished in the top 15 had she not crashed, ended up upside-down against the fence. When a coach helped her out of her skis, the pain in her knee was subsiding. But when she tried to put her skis back on, Schleper said she heard a pop that haunted her the whole flight home.

Schleper promptly returned to Vail, where she had surgery last week with Steadman Hawkins’ Dr. Bill Sterett.The familiar road to recovery”I try to see the positive in everything,” Schleper said. “What’s good about this injury is it will give me time to let my back heal. I’m going to give myself a full year.”Schleper felt she was fortunate to be able to return to form enough to compete in the Games, but said she felt pressured to begin training quicker than perhaps she should have, without letting her body heal.”I was lucky to make it through the Olympics,” she said. “I pressured myself because I wanted to race in the Olympics. I pushed it as quickly as I could.”

Schleper’s extensive racing career has been plagued with injury. She has had ongoing back problems since 2000 and had surgery on her right knee after breaking her leg in 1999. Next season however, will be the first entire season Schleper will miss in 10 years of World Cup racing.”I’ve noticed with people pushing injury after injury, it just snowballs,” said Schleper, who will be on crutches for the next five weeks and must refrain from weight-bearing activities for about six months.”Since the injury, I haven’t been pushing it,” she said. “It’s been a lot better.”Schleper said she’s fairly definite about missing the 2006-07 race season, and hopes to spend the time freeskiing and training with her brother, 14-year-old Junior Olympic champion Hunter Schleper.A new perspective

“I’m hoping it will really get me motivated to start ripping again and see (racing) from the outside perspective,” she said. “I think it will be really motivating for the next couple of years.” Schleper has a dream of competing in the Winter Games in 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her brother at her side. While getting back into racing form is not an easy task, Schleper has always been at her best after taking breaks. Her World Cup and Olympic success following back surgery can attest to it, as can her first World Cup victory in the 2005 World Cup Finals following a week break in Spain.”It’s hard for me to relax because I like, have a lot of energy,” Schleper said. “I’ve had to change my activities a little bit. I’ve been hanging out with friends and going to see my brother (Johnny) play at The Club. It will give me a new perspective. I’m looking forward to it.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or, Colorado

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