Newspaper article International New York Times

For a Racer Hurt Often, 19th Is as Good as Gold ; British Skier Competes in Games Just Months after Leaving the Hospital

Newspaper article International New York Times

For a Racer Hurt Often, 19th Is as Good as Gold ; British Skier Competes in Games Just Months after Leaving the Hospital

Article excerpt

Chemmy Alcott competed in the women's downhill at the Winter Olympics about six months after being hospitalized with a broken leg.

It was never easy being a ski racer from a snow-challenged country like England, something Chemmy Alcott has known all her life. The path grew more arduous when Alcott broke her neck skiing at 12 years old and had two vertebrae surgically fused.

But that did keep the London native off the racing slopes. It was, in fact, only the start, both for her skiing successes and a continuing resolve in the face of recurrent, serious injury and adversity.

Alcott grew into an accomplished, elite ski racer, posting multiple quality results on the World Cup and finishing 11th in the 2006 Turin Olympics downhill, the highest finish by a British woman in Alpine since 1968.

But her career seemed star-crossed. In a five-year span, she tore knee ligaments, had surgery on both feet and endured two more ankle and foot fractures.

Then in 2010, while training for a downhill in Canada, she soared over a jump at high speed and crash landed, her right leg snapping in two places with the bone protruding inside her ski boot.

"A lot of people said it was the worst injury they had ever seen," said Alcott's friend Julia Mancuso, a four-time Olympic medalist from the United States.

Alcott was in rehabilitation for years after that injury, and she lost her funding from a British sport organization. She embarked on an exhaustive fund-raising effort while simultaneously working to get back on the slopes. The goal for Alcott was the Sochi Games, which would be her fourth Olympics.

Then training in August in Switzerland, she broke her lower right leg again -- the third break in less than three years. A 15-inch metal rod was inserted to stabilize the leg, roughly six months before the women's downhill in the mountains near Sochi on Wednesday.

Is it possible to define the power of an Olympic dream?

"It's crazy what I've gone through -- absolutely crazy -- but there's nothing I wouldn't have tried to be here," Alcott, 31, said when she arrived this past week.

Then, in women's downhill on Wednesday, Alcott roared down the course to finish 19th in a field of 42.

"To be lying in a hospital bed less than six months ago and now be 19th, that's my gold medal," Alcott said. …

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