SOCHI, Russia – On Thursday, Roz Groenewoud will look to become the first women’s ski halfpipe gold medallist in Olympic history.
It sounds like a daunting task with a great deal of pressure, but it’s something Groenewoud has prepared for and accepts the challenge, even though she is returning from knee surgery two months ago.
“Both knees are definitely improving,” Groenewoud recently told the Olympic News Service. “I went 38 days from double-knee surgery to the podium at X Games. I’m proud of myself for that. I’m still not training at the same volume, but it’s been working out really well to have focused and efficient training sessions.”
Groenewould’s SuperPipe silver medal at the X Games in late-January served notice that the freestyle star was quickly on the mend and ready to compete for a podium in Sochi. She scored 85.66 on her first run to lead the field, but American rival Maddie Bowman took the gold with an 88.66 in the next series.
Bowman and Groenewoud will go for their first qualification runs back-to-back (seventh and eighth) on Thursday.
While still not perfectly healed, it’s skiing that keeps Groenewoud from worrying about her injuries.
“They’re both sore after each training day, but I’m not really thinking about them when I’m skiing.”
Now through the rigors of rehabilitation and on to the Olympic stage, Groenewoud will have a chance to put her focus on what she enjoys most.
“There were definitely a lot of emotional ups and downs. Overall, I was really happy with the process, but rehab is so time consuming and simultaneously so boring. I definitely wish I was skiing that whole time.”
With a medal Groenewoud could join Mike Riddle in the history books as the first Olympic ski halfpipe medallists at the Games. Riddle won silver in the men’s event this week, then thanked sport pioneer Sarah Burke, whose dedication helped land freestyle ski halfpipe and slopestyle events in Sochi.
Burke passed away in 2002. Groenewoud tweeted the day of competition that she too will be thinking of the late Canadian X Games star.
Also competing for Canada in the Olympic debut of women’s ski halfpipe is Keltie Hansen.
“It’s such an honour to represent my country. It’s been so exciting to be at (Canada Olympic House), getting all of the Canadian gear and then to showcase my sport,” Hansen said.
While Groenewoud’s skiing resume puts her in the spotlight, Hansen isn’t lacking confidence in her bid to make history at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
“I’m really trying to focus on just landing my run. I think that my run has medal potential, so I guess I’m hoping for a medal then.”