Mendes looking at five-month recovery
Jonna Mendes was going to spend the spring skiing some of her favorite runs around Lake Tahoe.
However, the rising U.S. Ski Team star’s plans for spring break changed dramatically Wednesday after she broke the talus bone and dislocated a tendon in her right foot.
Mendes, who turns 22 on Saturday, had 2 1/2 hours of surgery following her slalom crash at the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships in Big Mountain, Mont.
“It was a bad day, but I’m doing a lot better today,” said Mendes, who has remained in the care of North Valley Hospital in Whitefish, Mont. “It’s been so nice. I have so many flowers, balloons and stuffed animals. I haven’t really been alone much today either.”
As her upbeat personality returned, Mendes even found a silver lining in the injury.
“There could be a lot worse times to have this accident,” she said. “I just finished a great season. There’s never a good time, but if you’re going to hurt yourself, this is the best time. I’ll do whatever the doctors tell me and be careful about it.”
Mendes had every reason to dwell on the unfairness of her crash, considering it happened with the end of the season right in front of her.
“Everything about that was tragic,” Mendes said. “It was my last race of the year, my last run and I was the fourth or fifth gate from the bottom. I was home free, and then I hooked a tip and crushed my foot.
“I have a pretty good feel for injuries or knowing if I’m hurt. I heard it crack or pop right when I did it, and my foot was a little bent in my boot. I kind of knew it was broken.”
The broken foot is the worst injury of her 13-year racing career.
“I’ve been really lucky so far,” said Mendes, who listed last year’s thumb surgery as her most significant injury previously. “I believe everything happens for a reason. This is the first time I’ve taken a break from skiing that’s not by choice. Maybe it will be good for me get everything back in perspective and miss skiing. Maybe it will make me want it even more.”
Following the emergency surgery on her foot, doctors discussed a tentative recovery plan with Mendes.
“It’s hard to say what the time frame is going to be for my recovery,” she said. “It’s definitely six weeks nonweight-baring and three months or more to get back on snow.
“They told me to expect five months, but I’m really hoping for less. I’ll do whatever I can to get back to where I am now.”
But at least Mendes can confidently take her best ski racing season to date into the healing process. In addition to her first national title and two additional podiums at nationals, Mendes scored her first World Cup top-10 finish and improved her world ranking to 17th in downhill and 29th in super-G.
“I ended on a really good note,” she said. “I came into nationals a little burned out and was surprised to get three podiums, and almost a fourth, and my first national title.”
For now, Mendes is longing to take a vacation that she wouldn’t normally take.
“Maybe I’ll go somewhere tropical.”
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