Canadian halfpipe star Groenewoud a medal threat despite knee problems
Rosalind Groenewoud of Calgary flies through the air as she practises on the half pipe on the Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, B.C., Thursday, July 7, 2013. Groenewoud isn't letting surgery to both of her knees deter her expectations for the Sochi Olympics.(Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, February 14, 2014 12:55PM EST
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Just two months out from double knee surgery, Canadian freestyle skier Rosalind Groenewoud is planning to play through the pain at the Sochi Games.
The women's halfpipe star is obviously a fast healer. She won silver at the X Games last month -- just 38 days after surgery -- and feels she'll be ready when her sport makes its Olympic debut on Feb. 20.
Doctors repaired the lateral meniscus in both of her knees last December. Working with three physiotherapists, two trainers and her coaches, Groenewoud started the recovery process with compression icing before moving on to physio, cycling and weightlifting.
"It's been quite the journey," she said. "Quite the hashtag, road to Sochi."
She had been dealing with knee pain through the fall but things got worse after a training injury in December ahead of a Dew Tour event in Colorado.
"I couldn't walk and I definitely couldn't edge on my ski," she said. "So I opted to go for double knee surgery to fix the problems in both and sat out pretty much the whole competitive season."
She returned to the slopes in mid-January and was proud of her results at X Games. Now the 2011 world champion is ready to anchor a strong Canadian ski halfpipe team in Sochi.
She's joined by Megan Gunning, also from Calgary, and Keltie Hansen of Edmonton. Calgary's Justin Dorey, Edmonton's Mike Riddle, Matt Margetts of Penticton, B.C., and Noah Bowman of Calgary are on the men's team.
Groenewoud -- or "Roz G" as she's known -- won gold at the X Games in 2012 and took the X Games Europe title that year as well. She's one of the biggest names in the sport and refuses to let her knee issues slow her down.
"I'm still not training at the same volume that I probably would be if I hadn't had double knee surgery," she said. "But it's turned out that it's been working really well for my training to have really focused, efficient training sessions. They're still sore after each training day but I'm not really thinking about them when I'm skiing."
She credits her team for her fast recovery. Having strong legs and sound body mechanics also helped.
"I guess I have some good genetics for healing as well," she said.
The Canadian team trained on the halfpipe earlier Friday at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. It was a tad slushy with temperatures hovering near the 17 C mark, but it was a welcome change for athletes used to competing in the cold.
"We usually deal with minus-20 something conditions and ice and this is sunny, warm and soft," Dorey said. "Very forgiving conditions out there, so it's been a blast."
In ski halfpipe, athletes try to impress judges with their tricks, spins and flips on the U-shaped snow pipe. Amplitude, technical difficulty, creativity and landings are all factors.
The walls are almost seven metres high at their peak and the pipe is about 19 metres wide.
Each competitor gets two runs in each phase of the event and the best score is used. The top-12 competitors qualify for the final.
Groenewoud worked on single tricks in Friday's session. She plans to put them together in a full run as training continues.
"Today she did a left cork nine, which is the coolest trick I've ever seen her do," Dorey said. "So she's skiing better than she ever has, so she's on it."
A left cork nine (or 900) includes two and a half spins and a backflip.
The long-range forecast is calling for warm temperatures through next week, although not quite as warm as Friday.
"We're going to be competing at night, so it's going to be fast and it's going to be hard and it's going to be awesome," said Margetts.