Elli’s got her groove back
It is going to take a heck of a lot more than a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a torn meniscus and a micro-fracture in her femur to stop Elli Terwiel.
The 21-year-old slalom and giant slalom skier from Kamloops incurred those injuries to her left leg in October 2008 while training with Alpine Canada’s development team in Pitztal, Austria.
“There was never any moments of doubt about me continuing ski racing,” said Terwiel, who spoke to KTW from Kirchberg, Austria.
“It was moreso how soon can I get back to where I need to be, and it took a while.”
It has taken two years, but Terwiel is back at the top of her game and in hot pursuit of a spot on the national senior ladies’ squad, which tours on the International Ski Federation’s World Cup circuit.
The Brocklehurst secondary graduate placed first at a Nor-Am Cup (NAC) slalom event in Panorama, B.C., in December and third in giant slalom and slalom NAC events in Sunday River, Maine, earlier this month.
Her accomplishments did not go unnoticed by Alpine Canada, which decided it was time for Terwiel to get her first taste of action on the World Cup circuit.
She got the nod to enter a World Cup race in Flachau, Austria, on Jan. 11 and, after her first run, sat in 34th place, narrowly missing out on qualifying for a second run.
If Terwiel was .17 seconds faster, she would have made the cut (top 30).
The 34th place finish, however, was more than enough to justify her selection to the event and Terwiel’s recent run of good form has boosted her chances of being named to the 2011-2012 senior women’s team in the spring.
Sun Peaks Alpine Club’s program director John Crichton, Terwiel’s longtime coach, has followed his pupil every step of the way on a journey filled with ups and downs.
“It was heartbreaking watching her flail a little bit,” Crichton said, noting Terwiel has faced financial, emotional and physical challenges during the rehab process.
“It’s been a real battle for her to come back.”
Terwiel’s left-leg injuries in 2008 were not the only setbacks she overcame on the comeback trail.
In November 2009, she was concussed in another fall, in which she also suffered a deep bone bruise to her wrist.
Shortly after returning to action, Terwiel slipped a disc in her back while skiing with the national development team on Dec. 31, 2009 — happy new year.
“The injuries really make you appreciate what you have,” said Terwiel, who enjoys life on the road and blogs about her experiences online.
“Learning how to walk again was a huge thing. It really made me appreciate the simple things like carrying things in your hand and, as you progress from that stage, you are more aware how incredible it is that you do something that’s beyond ordinary.
“I’m just so happy that I can pursue my dream that I’ve had since I was a little girl. Not many people get to do that.”
From the ages of 10 to 16, Terwiel was coached by Crichton at Sun Peaks. He left Kamloops in 2005 to take a job with the national technical World Cup squad.
He returned to Sun Peaks in September, which allowed Terwiel some quality time with her mentor earlier this winter.
“He’s a great resource to have in our community and he’s an an absolutely incredible coach,” Terwiel said of Crichton.
“John is my favourite coach I’ve ever had, so I tried to take advantage of the opportunity to train with him.”
Terwiel was scheduled to race in her second World Cup event in Slovenia this week, but it was cancelled due to poor snow conditions.
Instead, she competed at a European Cup slalom race in Tarvisio, Italy, where she finished 20th in a field composed largely of the world’s fastest women.
“I was pretty stoked,” she said. “It’s been a long road coming back from injury and having last year be such an up-and-down year, I’m incredibly happy to have made it.”
Terwiel contacted Crichton after her first World Cup event in Austria.
“She phoned me yesterday on Skype and left me a tear-filled thankyou message,” Crichton said.
“I’ll do anything I can —I’ll do backflips — to give her a little bit of help and support her.”