Four months ago, Sochi Olympian Brodie Summers was hoping the routine training jump that ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament could be rehabbed with enough time to make his second Olympic appearance next month in PyeongChang.
The answer is in.
As the rest of the OWIA and NSWIS mogul skiing squad compete in the World Cup in Deer Valley, Summers is in Winter Park in Colorado, USA to train with Australia’s Nor Am skiers from the Mogul Skiing Academy as his next preparatory step before a full return.
“Our Nor Am skiers have kindly said that they’re happy for me to join them,” Summers said before left his Melbourne home today.
The relentless, positive way in which Summers has tackled and condensed a twelve-month rehab with his trainers and medical professionals is remarkable, but as he well knows, the ultimate test is yet to come.
In September Summers said that it was “quite the mogul I have deal with” after surgery to his torn ACL and that he was motivated “to give it every bit I’ve got to get the job done”.
Summers has done exactly what he set out to do and is now headed for a return to groomed snow and the mogul course – one bump at a time.
“This is the time where I work myself back into a moguls course.,” he says of the coming weeks in Colorado. “The first few days will be cruising around on groomed snow and then step by step back into moguls course until hopefully I can put all the pieces back together for the pre-Olympic training camp in Steamboat from January 21.”
“I’m excited, really pumped up to get back into the season. Things have revved up the last couple of weeks and I feel more like a elite athlete again.”
Has he missed teammates Matt Graham, Britt Cox and the NSWIS mogul skiers in the early part of the season?
Maybe, but as with the common, positive vibe that runs like water through the Australian mogul teams, he feels connected and now, ready.
“It will be fun to be back in the team. The good thing with social media is that I can feel part of it,” he says.
Feeling “more like an elite athlete again” is the only admission the 24-year-old will entertain about the physical and mental mountains he has climbed since the simple training jump went wrong on September 5 at Mt Buller.
Within a few days of rupturing his ACL, surgeons took a graft from his hamstring tendon to replace it.
The work began on intensive rehab, led by OWIA’s Ashley Merkur. Summers was back in the gym a week later up to six times a week, a couple of times a day.
By December, Summers was in Japan to tackle snow.
“Japan was first time back on snow, having the sensation of gliding again and feeling comfortable in the ski boots. After the first couple of runs doing that, we started doing some drills and fundamentals. Putting the knee under those kinds of loads.”
Talk to any internationally successful mogul skier and you will hear about the importance of the basics. The rehab training stint in Japan reinforced those basics and tested the knee.
“Fundamentals for mogul skiers are essential,” Summers says. “We wanted to exercise as much control as possible with the edge of the ski and forward pressure – and good weight distribution and a nice body position.”
“I was after very consistent turn shape and control, and also symmetry to make sure it was even given what my right knee went through, that it could handle the loads.”
“It’s good to have the opportunity to do that.”
The next step before leaving for Colorado this weekend was a ten-day water jumping camp in rural Victoria, which has bolstered his confidence.
“The water ramping went really well actually,” he said. “I had my last session this morning and speaking to Ash (Merkur) on the way back about the difference between day 1 and today. It (the water ramping) gave me confidence in my body.”
Summers is now a dark horse for PyeongChang. His international record last season where he finished eighth in the world and collected two World Cup podiums puts him in the mix.
He has the experience and the mind-set that has been honed from a desire for the sport when he began competing in the Victorian inter-schools program.
“My friend was part of Team Buller Riders and convinced my parents to drive up every weekend during Term 3 back in 2006 and 2007.”
Summers showed such promise and love for his sport that in the following two years he went to school in Mt Buller.
“My parents bought an apartment up there and mum came up. My dad and (older) siblings would come up on the weekend. I got very obsessed from the moment I did it and was quite late into the sport as a 13-year-old compared to others.”
By 2010, Summers was part of the NSWIS mogul squad and came into the OWIA mogul skiing program in 2013 before the Sochi Olympics, where he finished 13th.
PyeongChang will be his return to competition. That’s about as tight as it gets.
By Belinda Noonan