Mendes opts for surgery, ruling out nationals
Early Tuesday morning, South Lake Tahoe skier Jonna Mendes officially gave her prospects for competing in the U.S. Alpine National Championships a thumbs down.
Mendes, a fourth-year speed specialist on the U.S. Ski Team and a Heavenly Ski Foundation alumna, had held hope of competing in nationals, which begin Friday at Jackson Hole, Wyo., after surgery to set a broken thumb. But a 10 a.m. meeting with Dr. Terry Orr of the Tahoe Fracture and Orthopedic Medical Clinic left the 20-year-old skier with two options: either race at Jackson with the broken thumb, or have surgery to reset it.
“I am disappointed, because this is the first big event I’ve ever had to miss because of an injury, but I still don’t consider it a major injury – just a little setback,” Mendes said. “The most important races of my season are already behind me, and I raced well in those.”
Mendes had hoped to race in the national championship downhill and super-G at Jackson. But she said she decided to play it safe after injuring the same thumb three times.
“Knowing I’ve done it so many times previously, I’d rather miss the race and not risk doing it again,” she said.
A crash in giant slalom training last week at Rossland, British Columbia, broke the proximal phalanx bone, the latest of three injuries to Mendes’ right thumb. The fall jammed her thumb back into her hand, breaking the bone into three pieces.
Tuesday’s surgery inserted four metal pins – one external – into the joint. Another fall with the pins in place could have caused even more damage. Because of that, and because Mendes already earned a place among the top 30 skiers on the World Cup for next season, Orr advised the skier against competing with the pins in place.
“Given the options, she felt she’d rather have the thumb taken care of and be done with it, and I thought it would be (better) as well,” Orr said.
“I expect that she should get a good recovery, a full recovery from it.”
Mendes is wearing a cast to immobilize the joint. She’ll have the cast and the pins for about the next six weeks.
“I’m not really in pain right now, and I’m waiting (until) I do feel some pain before I take pain medication,” Mendes said.
While Mendes won’t be able to compete at nationals, she’s planning on making the trip to Jackson anyway to watch her friends from the U.S. Ski Team. The skiers have a three week-break after nationals. Mendes plans on spending it in South Lake Tahoe.
While her hand may keep her off the weight bench, it won’t keep her from dryland training. Mendes plans to log plenty of miles on stationary bikes to stay in condition until she can get on the snow again. By that time, she expects the cast to be off. Orr said Mendes should be able to start skiing again in about three weeks.
“As soon as I can ski, I’m going to be testing equipment, getting back on my boards,” she said.
Mendes posted consistent top-30 finishes on the World Cup circuit this year, propelling her to a career-best 28th place in the world downhill standings. She missed qualifying for the World Cup finals by three places.
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