(CNN) — US skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin has set no timeline for her return to the slopes as she continues her recovery process following a high-speed crash in January.
The most successful skier of all time suffered a knee injury after crashing out of a World Cup downhill event in Italy and is now undergoing rehab.
In a social media post on Wednesday, Shiffrin revealed she avoided any major ligament damage but was left managing “a sprain of the tibial-fibular ligaments.”
“The truth is, it’s so dependent on the phase of the rehab I’m in right now,” she told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell, speaking of her expected return date.
“So much of it is daily tests and different kinds of stress, different kinds of load on the knee, and basically seeing how the tissue response is. That is just a very day-by-day thing.
“I know that I won’t be racing in Andorra this weekend, and that’s basically as far out as we can be sure at this point.”
Shiffrin knows she was very lucky to escape the crash with minimal damage given the impact the accident inflicted on her body.
The American was knocked off balance after landing a small jump before hitting a gate and colliding into the fences surrounding the slope.
“This one, to be honest, I kind of saw it coming from the air, a little bit,” she added.
“I was trying to avoid that scenario, but it also happens fast enough there’s not a lot you can do about it. I mean, the forces are high, you’re landing from a jump, the surface, it was rock solid.
“In that situation, you kind of can’t avoid it. I felt like I was seeing this happen a split second before it actually did.”
Challenging few weeks
As misfortune would have it, Shiffrin’s boyfriend Aleksander Aamodt Kilde also suffered a serious incident on the slopes just a few weeks before Shiffrin’s incident.
The Norwegian alpine skier was involved in a horror crash during a World Cup downhill race in Wengen, Switzerland, resulting in the two-time Olympic medalist suffering a dislocated shoulder, two torn shoulder ligaments and a gnarly laceration on his calf that needed urgent surgery due to nerve damage.
Shiffrin rushed to his side at the hospital and was with him when he woke up from surgery. The pair are now supporting each other with their respective rehabilitations.
“I actually am very lucky. I could have had a lot more damage than I did,” Shiffrin said.
“[Kilde] is a pretty tough reminder of that. But he’s so positive. He just makes everyone around him smile.”
Shiffrin said that Kilde is confined to a wheelchair a lot of the time as he continues his recovery and is unable to shower, cut food or even walk by himself.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist said she looks forward to seeing Kilde every evening when they can spend a few hours together eating dinner.
“He really had an extra dose of trauma and insanely high impact,” Shiffrin said, adding the last few weeks have been really challenging for the couple.
“His mental state is so incredible to me, that he can be so positive about life […] like every single step in front of him, he’s able to just kind of take it with an open mind.”
After years in the sport, Shiffrin is fully aware of the risks that come with zipping down a slope at ridiculous speeds.
She is open about how much that risk weighs on her shoulders at times, with the possibility of career-ending or even life-changing injuries around every corner.
She told CNN that both she and Kilde have had open conversations about whether the risks are worth it, but the 28-year-old said the love they share for skiing has always stopped them from walking away.
“We’re passionate about it,” she said. “The gifts that we’ve both received from being able to do this sport, do something we love, that’s active.
“In so many ways, it’s so liberating to be able to do this, and, so far, that’s what we always get back to.”
Both Shiffrin and Kilde join a growing list of skiers who have suffered serious injuries since the start of the year.
Most recently, Italian star Sofia Goggia suffered a broken leg in a training accident on Sunday, after colliding with a gate during a session in Ponte di Legno, Italy.
In her social media post, Shiffrin addressed the number of incidents in recent weeks, blaming, in part, the demands put on the world’s top skiers.
In her interview with CNN, the American explained how all the additional responsibilities around racing makes it hard for athletes to be fully ready for competition.
“You’re not getting proper nutrition during the entire race day or during those evenings,” she said, adding that media responsibilities and award ceremonies take up a lot of time.
“You don’t get proper recovery. You go right back out and expect to be able to race at 100%.
“I’m probably not even at 60% of what my best capacity is most of the time when I’m racing because you’re just so exhausted from everything. It is really constant. A lot of times, I think it’s too much.”
CNN has reached out to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation for comment.
With no return to the slopes this weekend, Shiffrin will be free to watch Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Much of the noise in the buildup of the spectacle has been about one person and one person only: Taylor Swift.
Shiffrin the Swiftie
The pop star’s relationship with Chiefs star Travis Kelce has seemingly taken over the world in recent weeks and it just so happens that Shiffrin is yet another Swiftie.
“I think it’s so cool that these kinds of worlds collide,” she said. “I kind of can’t see enough of her. I’m one of those.
“It kind of goes to show how much […] influence music and people’s love for music has.
“And expressing yourself through what you could call poetry, you can call it lyrics, whatever it is, but finding words to express yourself and doing it through song is something I’ve always thought was one of the most incredible things.
“I feel like the reason I’m the Swiftie is because I really feel like she’s one of the most genius lyricists ever. I think that people connect with her because of that.”
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