Brodie Summers was tense.
The Australian moguls skier was at the top of a ramp staring down into a murky dam in Melbourne earlier this week, his board shorts partly covered a brace protecting his new right knee.
“I went to go hit the little mini jump which I haven’t hit since I was about 14 years old and I was standing there at the top of the in run and I just froze and thought, ‘It’s now or never’,” he said.
He completed the jump, safely, and took a deep breath, but immediately turned his mind to improving his technique. There is no time to waste when you have to squeeze a nine-12-month rehabilitation into five-and-a-half months.
After a World Cup season where he finished eighth with two podium finishes, Summers’ preparation for the PyeongChang Olympics hit a big hurdle in September when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on a routine jump.
“As soon as I hit the snow it just gave way, it felt like it exploded,” he said.
“You see how disfigured how your leg looks after such a short amount of time and you just think, ‘Oh my God, is it ever going to be the same again?’
“While I was sitting there waiting for ski patrol and for physios to come down and see me, I was just running numbers in my head thinking, ‘How long is it to the Olympics? Five-and-a-half months. How long does it take to rehab an ACL? Usually about nine to 12, hopefully it can be accelerated’.”
Four days after the injury, Summers went under the knife, surgeons took graft from his hamstring tendon and used it to replace the ACL.
He was back in the gym a week later as part of a hectic recovery schedule.
“My trainer — we just basically live together in the gym — we’re in there five or six times a week, couple of times a day,” he said.
“Every time I reintroduce an element of my training, it’s that initial kind of leap of faith. It’s a constant stream of that, this entire process.
“The big one for me was when I first got out here earlier this week and tested it out water ramping. There are not many things in the world that are going to test your knee out with quite as much impact as water jumping.”
His recovery plan has little room for setbacks but the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia’s rehabilitation manager, Ashley Merkur said, remarkably he’s on track to make the Pyeongchang Games.
“We’re taking an accelerated path but he has so far hit every milestone that we’ve wanted him to and he continues to progress along as planned,” she said.
“In an ideal preparation he’d be with his teammates who are currently competing in Asia at the World Cup but he’s going to be the dark horse now.”