U.S. skier Scott Macartney putting Kitzbuehel crash behind him | AspenTimes.com

U.S. skier Scott Macartney putting Kitzbuehel crash behind him

Pat Graham
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

In this Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008 photo, United States skier Scott Macartney flies over the last jump during a training run at the Birds of Prey course at the men's downhill World Cup Ski competition at Beaver Creek, Colo. Macartney had a horrifying fall in Kitzbuhel, Austria during last winter's ski season which hospitalized him. Macartney is now back skiing the men's World Cup downhill ski competition at Beaver Creek, Colo. this week. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. ” Scott Macartney can’t escape his horrific crash at Kitzbuehel.

Friends still ask the U.S. skier to recount the story of his terrifying tumble ” a wreck on the Austrian mountain in which he lost control going nearly 90 mph, smacking his head on the ground and sending his unconscious, limp body sliding toward the finish line.

“I’m not super excited to go into it again,” Macartney said Tuesday after a downhill training run at the Birds of Prey. “I’m trying to get away from that and get back to racing.”

Macartney, who’ll race in Friday’s downhill, lined up for his first race since his spill last weekend, finishing 59th during the downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta.

That run, however, wasn’t quite as demanding as Birds of Prey, where Wednesday’s second day of training was canceled after three inches of new snow.

“This course has more challenges,” the Kirkland, Wash., resident said. “There are bigger jumps here, faster, higher speed turns. It’s a good test here.”

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And that makes the spill hard to sidestep, especially with a YouTube clip that has had nearly two million hits.

“Half the people want me to watch the video with them,” he said. “It’s hard to get away from it.”

Macartney, who turned 30 the day of the crash, crested over the Kitzbuehel hill, carrying great speed into the final jump just before the finish. Then, he felt his left ski start to drift, his body soon following. He twisted out of control before slamming his head onto the ground, his helmet absorbing the impact and breaking apart as it’s designed to do.

He was flown to a hospital in Innsbruck, where doctors induced a coma as the swelling subsided overnight. After a few days in the hospital, he was sent home to recover from his concussion.

“Every reporter I talk to, they’ve seen the crash at Kitzbuehel, and that’s the first thing they ask, and the second and the third and the fourth,” Macartney said. “Sure, it’s still relevant ” just personally, I’m trying to move on.”

Physically, he’s fine ” no more headaches or fogginess, just a high-maintenance back that requires lots of loosening before a run.

Psychologically, he’s still working things out.

Macartney has no fear careening down a slope at 70 mph, the wind whipping at his back. But throw in some uneven light, add a few bumps and he turns a little skittish.

“It’s step by step,” Macartney said.

Take your time. Know your limits. Don’t do too much.

That’s the advice of Hermann Maier, the Austrian skier who’s been involved in his share of wipeouts, most notably his spectacular cartwheeling crash at the Nagano Olympics in 1998.

“You just have to ski again, try to ski the same,” said Maier, who went on to win two gold medals in Nagano. “Step by step, that’s very important. It’s not always easy to have patience. You want to go faster and faster ” you need time.”

Macartney took that first step toward regaining his nerve during preseason training in Portillo, Chile. Traveling down a run, he hit a good-sized jump, flying 45 meters (nearly 148 feet) by his estimation, and landed it with ease.

It was precisely what he needed.

“You can get up to speed ” it’s just that last little bit, between going fast and pulling a lot of G-forces and really executing a line and jumping. That’s the next step,” he said. “It’s getting back into that.”

If he had his way, Macartney would’ve returned to the slopes late last season.

Instead, he had the meniscus repaired in his left knee, buying even more time for his head to heal.

“I think it might be easier to get right back on it than wait,” he said. “But things are feeling really good now. My body is feeling good. I just have to get the confidence going and get it fired in there.”

His biggest mental hurdle awaits: Kitzbuehel.

“I’ll be there back there,” he said of the race next month.

Any qualms, though?

“Well, you have qualms whether you go to Kitzbuehel coming off an injury or not,” he said. “Kitzbuehel is a tough place. It’s always a nerve-racking week. I don’t know if it will be more or less or the same when I get back there.”

He realizes there will be more questions about the crash as the race approaches.

That’s fine. Macartney knows how to quiet the chatter: “You start skiing fast, and that becomes more of the story.”

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