Life for Whistler's Manuel Osborne-Paradis was in high gear for years between training, travelling and competing. Then in January, 2011 he caught at edge at Chamonix and crashed into a safety net at 120km/h, breaking his left leg, tearing his ACL and bruising his ribs.
It was Osborne-Paradis' first major injury as a World Cup racer, although he expected something was going to happen sooner or later. And while the timing couldn't be worse with five other teammates also on the injury list, Osborne-Paradis found a silver lining to that injury and another injury he received over the summer after being dragged behind a bus in a non-skiing related incident.
"I did learn that I was definitely burnt out," he told Pique, driving to Lake Louise last week to catch the first part of Winterstart before driving back to Vancouver for a funeral this past weekend.
"I kind of knew that before. The last season was tough for me; I had issues with concentration (and) there were lots of little complications during the season. I had a tough time putting full runs together. I'd win a split but I couldn't put a full run together to save my life.
"It was a good break. I didn't have cable (television) when I was injured and thought I'd have a little time, but I still don't have cable and I still don't have time. I'm a busy guy, and I had a lot of loose ends over the last six years of my life. It feels good to finally tie those knots up. I've got my house in order and I've done all the little things that needed to be done."
Osborne-Paradis has been cleared to ski by the team's doctors, and Osborne-Paradis said he would be taking it slow at the start. Luckily, he said there are only a few events before the Christmas break. That gives him about six weeks to get up to speed before he rejoins the World Cup, and in the meantime he will get to do something new this weekend as he provides colour commentary on the races at Beaver Creek for the CBC.
The process of getting healthy again has also had its benefits physically, and he expects the technical side to his skiing to improve as a result.
"I learned a lot from training," he said. "When you're young they really teach you how to do the lifts and jumps properly, and it's probably been almost 10 years since I've gone through any really strong technical lifting or taken that technical approach to stuff. I spent three to four months really training in the summer, building muscles, and building strength to get into shape and to start focusing on the technical aspect.
"Rehab has also been good for my back and shoulder, to take a step back and work on stuff like that that wasn't part of the main injury but I haven't had time to deal with properly. The way I maneuver around the gym is day and night since my injury, and all those little injuries finally had a chance to heal because of that."
Osborne-Paradis said he would likely rejoin the team in the New Year. And while injuries like his might make another skier cautious, Osborne-Paradis knows himself too well.
"My goal would be, by next season, to get into the start gate at Lake Louise back where I was. This year is a building year they say, but when I get back into racing mode, the way I look at it is if that if I'm not going for the top three then there's no point in starting. I'm going to start pushing for top three as soon as I'm back in. I don't think that's an unacceptable goal — I don't have to relearn how to ski, I just have to ski smarter and be technically better."
FIS protects an injured skier's points while they're on the sidelines for a set amount of time, which means that Osborne-Paradis won't have to start over like teammate John Kucera, who has missed two consecutive seasons. The real risk is to start slow and slip out of the top 30. "There's a bit of a buffer there," he said. "I could be out of the top 30 and starting 35 to 40 for a little while, but it's all within reason — if I start skiing well I shouldn't be affected in the long term."
Osborne-Paradis, 27, has been on the World Cup tour since 2005. In the three seasons leading up to his injury he was improving steadily in downhill — sixth in 2008, fifth in 2009 and fourth in 2010. In 2010, he also ranked ninth in the super G.
He now has nine World Cup podiums to his credit, including three victories — two of them in 2010.
While Osborne-Paradis is keen to build on that momentum, the date of his return will be decided by the team's trainer Matt Jordan at the University of Calgary and the team's "Back to Snow" coach Peter Rybarik — both of whom have been busy with the long list of injured skiers with the team.