“This was my first real accident in snowboarding, and I made such a stupid mistake. The first days in hospital were pretty tough, and it was a very emotional thing.”
It has been a tough road to recovery for Patrick Mayrhofer. But the Austrian world champion has found strength in two sources: PyeongChang 2018 and the wider Para snowboarding community.
“PyeongChang gave me power and energy again, and although the days in the rehabilitation centre were very hard, from 7:30 am to 6 pm, I’m fighting very hard for that every day,” the 29-year-old said. “And all the other athletes, we’re a big family. We’re just about 80 riders, and everyone knows each other, so I got a lot of positive responses. Even now, four or five months after the accident, I’m still in connection with all the other athletes from all around the world, and that’s something that’s very nice.”
Mayrhofer, who took gold in the men’s banked slalom SB-UL at the 2015 World Championship, was looking to defend his title in Big White, Canada, in February.
But he injured his knee during a training-run accident the day prior to the competition. He had to be flown back to Austria for an operation, and has been rehabilitating in Innsbruck.
Mayrhofer admitted the injury took a psychological toll.
“Missing two World Championship races, and less than one year before PyeongChang, it was the very worst date,” he said. “This was my first real accident in snowboarding, and I made such a stupid mistake. The first days in hospital were pretty tough, and it was a very emotional thing.”
He plans to return to training in the middle of September, at the earliest. Restoring full movement to the knee, even walking upstairs, proved difficult. But Mayrhofer is not rushing his recovery.
The two-time overall World Cup winner took two World Cup podium finishes the past season in Landgraaf, Netherlands and hopes those points are enough to compete at PyeongChang 2018.
“There’s not too much pressure to compete again this year,” he explained. “This means I can just focus on training in terms of strength and technique, and maybe in December I could be back on the race slopes again.”
The men’s SB-UL class has seen the rise of the USA’s Mike Minor, who dominated the past season and took world gold in snowboard-cross but was upset by France’s Maxime Montaggioni, who Mayrhofer lists as his biggest competitors.
“Of course I want to go there [to PyeongChang] to get a medal, this is the big goal. If I look back on the last three years, I know that I can make it.”