Mendes is back |

Mendes is back

Gary Kank

After undergoing five grueling months of rehab, Jonna Mendes is back. Back on her feet, back on skis and back on track to qualify for the upcoming 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mendes, who broke her right foot in March’s U.S. Alpine Championships in Big Mountain, Mont., returned to the slopes Aug. 21 during a 10-day trip to Saas Fe, Switzerland with the Europa Cup team.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal to get back out on snow,” Mendes said. “I was most concerned with how my foot was going to feel being crammed back into my race boots and how that pain might hinder my skiing, but it ended up being absolutely fine. It was like I had never missed a day.”

Shortly after her crash at Big Mountain, Mendes underwent surgery. After the procedure, U.S. Ski Team doctors told Jonna that the road back to recovery would be a long one.

“I was told it was going to be at least six months until I could realistically think about skiing,” Mendes said. “Well, that wasn’t good enough for me, so I shot for four-and-a-half months.”

Returning home to South Lake Tahoe, Mendes got to work right away.

Led by physical therapists Jenny Cooper and Chris Proctor of Emerald Bay Physical Therapy and U.S. Men’s Ski Team head physician Terry Orr from the Tahoe Fracture Clinic, Mendes began rehabilitating her foot only one week after her accident.

“She’s a real driven person,” Proctor said. “Out of all the athletes I’ve worked with, she is the most dedicated for sure.”

Early on, Mendes’s therapy consisted of massages and soft tissue work which helped keep her foot stimulated while she was on crutches. After about nine weeks, her training progressed into a more rigorous schedule, which involved weight lifting, balancing exercises, swimming, gymnastics and bicycling.

“My rehab really wasn’t as hard as I expected,” Mendes said. “I think that had a lot to do with the fact that I’ve never been seriously injured before.”

Mendes also attributed her speedy recovery to her trainers.

“Jenny and Chris helped make it a lot of fun, and we did silly things every day that made things easier. Doctor Orr was great as well. He knew how badly I wanted to get skiing again, but he gave me conservative guidelines, knowing very well that I was going to push them whenever I could.”

Mendes went on to say that she took Orr’s advice very seriously after seeing a handful of her teammates rush back into skiing too soon, only to reinjure themselves.

“Trying to go 90 mph on a downhill course with a lingering injury is just reckless,” Mendes said. “I’m trying to get back out on the snow as strong, healthy and confident as possible.”

This past Sunday Mendes showed her strength while attending a ski team conditioning camp. During the dreaded preseason physical testing she came away with a personal best on the bike test and completed leg strength tests that revealed she has had a successful preparation period leading into the ski season.

“From where things looked in March, I think everyone is really surprised,” Proctor said. “But in her case, I think she’s been driven to prove everyone wrong.”

Ultimate proof for Mendes would be to fulfill a dream she has fostered since the 1998 Winter Games ended, making the 2002 Olympic squad.

“First, I’d like to qualify,” she said. “That is my first goal and the most important toward my ultimate goal of medaling.”

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