Aspen alpine ski racer battles back from injury
U.S. Ski Team
On the long road to becoming a professional athlete there are endless twists, turns and obstacles to overcome.
Every day is a battle — a battle with your body and your mind to constantly force yourself to move forward.
On the hill, you are fighting fractions of a second looking for any flaws in your skiing that can be re-mastered or something totally new to master.
And more often than not, you have to go backward to move forward again.
In the summer months, you train your mind to force your body through one more rep it can’t possibly do.
Perhaps the biggest struggle in sport is injury.
In sports that you have to constantly push the limits, you learn quickly that limits can be broken but also that those limits can push back.
Racing down a frozen mountain at speeds of over 90 mph, a split-second mistake can end a season and a career. Injury is inevitable, and if you take it as a learning process, it is perhaps one of the most important steps to becoming a professional athlete and happy human.
I made the U.S. Ski Team when I was 17 years old and thought nothing could stop or slow me from becoming the next Bode Miller.
In the first couple weeks of being introduced to high level skiing, an older athlete spoke to us about what it takes to make it on the world stage.
“You will get injured” were his first words.
And my silent response was, “pfff try, I dare ya.”
Now in the past five years of my professional career, I have failed to go more than six months without a major surgery.
My first injury was one of the most enlightening events in my young life. I learned that my body isn’t indestructible. It can and will break if you push it to hard.
In the first few months of couch-dwelling, waiting for my body to heal, I was astounded to watch my mind break down as well, which helped me understand the balance between body and mind.
My mind had always been able to push my body through one more set. Now my body was pushing back in a whole different way.
With such limited physical activity, the mind breaks down as well with proper stimulus. I was doing nothing those first couple months and learned quickly that I should have been doing something.
As I recovered physically, I, in turn, recovered my mental edge. I came back that next season becoming North American downhill champion.
Since that first bout of injury I have gone back under the knife numerous times, always returning to form, faster than the last time.
Each time an injury slows me down, I learn more about myself and what I need to be happy.
We, as humans, evolved to move. That’s what we were built for and that’s what keeps us alive.
Life, by definition, is movement and change.
When our bodies break, they need time to heal. But that doesn’t mean you stop moving and changing.
Going into yet another season on the sidelines, I have learned what it takes to recover from injury. I’ll return to old passions and find some new ones at school this winter.
Although missing the season will hurt, it will also be healthy for me to recharge my passion for the sport by stepping back from it.
I look forward to recovering from this injury and coming back again next year stronger than ever.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Tejay van Garderen has long been one of the country’s top professional cyclists, having spent 12 seasons on the World Tour with various teams. His career came to an end in June when the 32-year-old announced his retirement.