Vail’s Kildow fights fear, pain to finish eighth
SAN SICARIO, Italy – Lindsey Kildow hobbled to the race course on Wednesday morning. She walked with a limp, and sat at the top of the Olympic downhill course with her eyes closed. A few minutes later, she hurtled her aching body down the mountain at 60 mph, her skis chattering through the bumpy terrain, shifting to the right, then to the left, then flying 30 meters into the air.Austria’s Michaela Dorfmeister won the race in 1 minute, 56.49 seconds, but it was the gutsy eighth-place performance the 21-year-old who grew up skiing at Vail that Americans will remember from these Games. No medal, but still not bad for a woman who many feared was paralyzed on Monday after a hideous crash put her in a stretcher for a helicopter airlift to a Turin hospital.”It’s definitely weird going from the hospital bed to the start gate,” said Kildow, who was released from the hospital on Tuesday afternoon. “But it’s ski racing. I’ve done it my whole life. I wasn’t worried that I’d forgotten anything.”Swiss racer Martina Schild took silver in Wednesday’s race with a time of 1:56.86. Sweden’s Anja Paerson walked away with the bronze in 1:57.13.
Kildow, who was going more than 50 mph when she crashed, remembers little of the accident.”I just remember being in my tuck going over the roll,” she said. “Then all of a sudden, I’m looking back up the hill over the same roll. I remember screaming and my back being in an incredible amount of pain.” The pain, she said, is still intense.”My back is extremely painful,” she said. “I don’t have a very good range of motion. My left butt cheek doesn’t seem to work.”Bill Sterett, Kildow’s doctor from the Vail Valley Medical Center, determined Kildow suffered no serious injuries, just bruises on the back of her pelvis and hip. Racers have a plastic plank inside their ski suits to protect their backs. Kildow said the crash destroyed hers.”I’ve got some burn marks on my back and butt,” she said. “My back protector probably saved my back from being fractured. I burned some holes in my suit. It definitely hurt.”
She was nervous at the start and especially apprehensive going over the site of her crash, Kildow said. “I was worried my body wouldn’t be able to hold the forces,” she said. “Especially on those ice turns, where it’s extremely bumpy, and they’re left-footed turns, where my left butt is killing me. I was worried that it wouldn’t hold me. But it did.”Former Olympic silver medalist and Kildow’s mentor, Picabo Street, stayed in the hospital with Kildow after the accident and encouraged the injured 21-year-old to get back on her skis as soon as possible.”She was incredible, she spent the whole night with me until 10 o’clock,” Kildow said. “She cried with me. She said she knew I can do it, that I have to be positive and get back out there as soon as I can. She knew as soon as I got back out there, I’d have a medal. Just not today, I guess.”Kildow, who is second in the World Cup downhill standings, came to the Olympics determined to win a medal. Because she’s competing in Friday’s super G and likely in the slalom and combined, she still has a chance.”After what I’ve been through, I’m just happy to be here,” she said. “It’s the Olympics; you have to hope for the best. I was hoping for top-three. I’m looking forward to the next couple of races, because if my back will feel better than it did today, I have a much better chance of doing well. I wanted to get a medal, but I have more chances, so don’t give up on me yet.”
Kildow’s teammates found it downright heroic that she competed at all Wednesday, much less finished in the top 10.”I know she was in a lot of pain,” said Julia Mancuso, the top American on Wednesday, finishing seventh – just .07 seconds faster than Kildow. “She did a really good job.”Skipping the race, Kildow said, was not even on the list of possibilities.”I was going to go through everything I could today to start. I wasn’t thinking of not racing,” Kildow said. “I learned that your body can go through a lot, and you can push yourself as far as you want to push it.”She said she liked the course and recognized the importance of being in Turin.”I felt like this course was really suited to me with all the terrain,” she said. “I had such a good feeling. It’s the Olympics. You work so hard to be here. You can’t just give up.”Americans Stacey Cook (1:58.70) and Kirsten Clark (1:59.07), finished 19th and 21st respectively.
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.