Ski racer Wisi tired of being patient – in the hospital
If the U.S. Ski Team coaches didn’t know better, they would have thought that veteran downhiller Wisi Betschart of South Lake Tahoe was auditioning for Hollywood stunt work last season.
Two major crashes ended the 24-year-old Betschart’s season prematurely and left him with an aching back, concussion and a severe case of facial road rash.
“Last year kicked my (butt),” Betschart said. “I think I spent more days in the hospital than on the hill skiing, but so far this (year) has been great. I feel healthy and I’ve been skiing fast.”
His confidence returned as he busted out with two top six finishes while racing in Chile over the summer.
“We had two downhill races where the French World Cup team raced and I got third and sixth, which really helped my ranking for the start of this season,” he said.
World Cup starts have been few and far between for the former Heavenly Foundation racer, and injuries are at the root of his stagnant movement on the team.
In his first crash last season, Betschart broke off 1 inch of his scapula. After rehabilitating that injury, Betschart’s luck only worsened when he returned. While dropping into a tuck two or three gates from the conclusion of a solid run, Betschart caught a ski tip in the gate, sending him sprawling onto his face. The crash left his face as raw as hamburger and his mind clouded from a concussion. He also fractured an orbital bone in the wreckage.
His hard luck season bottomed out when Betschart tweaked a disc in his back during rehabilitation. Betschart’s season was over, and he felt like retreating to a retirement home.
“I felt like I was 70 or 80 years old,” Betschart said. “Just getting up and putting my socks on, I felt like I was going to fall over. Now I’m starting to feel my age again.”
With the Olympics only a little over a year away, Betschart is hoping to slip in an injury-free season so he can pursue some of his lifelong dreams.
“The Olympics have been on my mind since I was about 5 or 6 years old,” Betschart said. “It’s been my ultimate goal, but there are so many other important races on my mind right now that I need to concentrate on, like the World Championships this year in St. Anton and, of course, I really need to concentrate on the Europa Cup circuit to make it back on to the World Cup circuit.”
But that hasn’t kept Betschart from dreaming about the World Cup and Salt Lake City from time to time.
“I have this dream that I’m having a totally out-of-control-just-on-the- edge race that I barely make it down and when I look up at the scoreboard it flashes my time and my name moves on top of (Hermann) Maier’s name for first,” Betschart said. “At the Olympics, though, I’m on the podium with Daron Rahlves and Marco Sullivan and a bunch of champagne.”
Betschart feels an intense summer conditioning and skiing program has him prepared to produce the best results of his career.
“We’ve been busting it all summer, and we’ve skied the most during the summer since I’ve been on the team,” he said. “As far as conditioning, our team has a sport science department and they keep me plenty busy in Sierra Athletic Club with the conditioning program they come up with.”
Although Betschart is projected to begin the season on the Europa Cup and Nor Am circuits, he hopes that he can earn a World Cup start at either Lake Louise, Canada, or Beaver Creek, Colo., to start the season.
“It’s wide open,” said Betschart, analyzing the American team’s pecking order after Rahlves and Chad Fleischer. “I’m not too worried about catching up. If I can stay healthy and focus on what makes me ski fast, I know I can win races.”
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