GB Snowsport freestyle skier Katie Summerhayes says she feels she can cope with anything having battled back from three serious knee injuries.
The 26-year-old is preparing for her third Winter Olympics, but her experiences at previous Games have been hampered by fitness issues, meaning she feels she has unfinished business at Beijing 2022.
Summerhayes has suffered the misfortune of damaging her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) three times, an injury which is notoriously difficult to recover from.
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“To come back from that three times, it’s pretty crazy. But I just know that if I can do that, I can battle through anything really,” she told Eurosport.
“I’m one of the most experienced female skiers on the circuit right now and I think I might have been competing one of the longest. I just try to take all my experience and resilience going into every competition – I can use that to my advantage.”
Summerhayes feels she is stronger than ever and has developed a significant level of mental strength by coming through the issues she has done. The sport is tough – funding is limited, so much so that her younger sister Molly had to retire after Pyeongchang and now works for the police force.
“The worst part of doing my ACL three times is that twice I’ve known exactly what the rehab entails, and how it feels. The third time I did it was in 2018 in New Zealand and it was such a big blow,” she said.
I was in good shape, I missed the winter season and it really hurt. Any injury sucks, but especially one that you’ve done three times, and especially one that takes an average nine months to rehab – it’s really tough. But then I’m just happy to say that I’ve come out the other side three times, and stronger.
“Both Olympics I’ve gone into, I’ve been injured, or coming back from injury. Right now my goal is to – touch wood – stay injury free. Like that is just what I want to do. In Sochi eight years ago, I was just coming back from a knee ACL reconstruction. That’s a really crazy injury, I had surgery in May and I didn’t get back on skis until December. So I had around six weeks, two months to get back into it.
“Then around this time four years ago, I hurt my angle and it put me out for two months, so the first time I got back in skis was basically, the Olympics. Usually when we return to snow, we have months to get back into it, and I was just going straight to the Olympics – so that was pretty gnarly. I just want to go injury free and be in the best shape possible.”
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Summerhayes has already got her season underway and admits it is hard not to think too far ahead to Beijing – although it is the big focus. She says she has learnt to listen to her body, knowing when to push herself and when not to.
The schedule from now until Beijing is busy, with three World Cups and Christmas to negotiate, with just over two months to go until the Games get underway. Summerhayes is relatively hard on herself when she looks back at her results so far this season.
She finished 18th at a big air competition in Chur in October, and 29th at the Stubai World Cup slopestyle earlier this month – but she says new moves are being worked on, and there is no better time to make mistakes.
“It’s not been amazing so far,” she said.
“But I didn’t go all out, I played it safe, I just wanted to get into it again.
“I’ve had really good training, and I did some tricks I haven’t done before. Regardless of the result, it went really well. This is the time to get out those stupid little mistakes.”
Recently, Summerhayes spent time at an event with three-time Olympic gymnastics gold medallist Max Whitlock – it has given her more motivation than ever for a Games, and pulling on the Team GB tracksuit again.
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