One of the most remarkable comebacks in recent Canadian sporting history belongs to Kaya Turski. Experimental surgery on her torn anterior cruciate ligament in August resulted in a recovery that found her back on the slopes less than five months afterwards. Having suffered the injury in August 2013, during an attempt to practice a new move in Mount Hood, Oregon, her left knee is part of a unique medical innovation. Of note, her left knee now has a synthtetic ligament wrapped inside a cadaver graft.
Considering that she has once endured having torn ACLs in both legs, it resulted in a year-long recovery for Turski. As the native from Montreal was looking towards making her Winter Games true, the experimental surgery was the only option. With ligaments from both her hamstrings having been used in the first two ACL reconstructions, that option could not be attempted again.
Dr. Robert Litchfield employed a hybrid option with the use of the synthetic ligament and cadaver graft. While the long-term stability of the knee is unknown, she is healthy enough to compete. For Dr. Litchfield, this innovation may be as impactful for skiers as Tommy John surgery was for baseball players. As he will be in Sochi as the doctor for Canada’s alpine ski team, he will be on-hand for support.
Archiving the recovery on video tape, it would prove to be a therapeutic release for Turski, who never gave up on a quick recovery. Providing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with the footage, it certainly helped put into perspective the remarkable sacrifices that athletes can make in order to pursue their dreams.
Her heroic efforts culminated with a gold medal in Aspen, Colorado at the 2014 X-Games in the women’s ski slopestyle, finishing ahead of American Maggie Voisin and Canadian Kim Lamarre. Of note, Dara Howell from Huntsville, Ontario finished in fourth place. Travelling with a physical therapist, it provided a feeling of confidence as she looks to duplicate her success at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
After the injury she sustained in August, it was doubtful if she would even be part of the conversation at Sochi. Considering that she made history in the ski slopestyle by perfectly executing a 1080 in past competition, the thought of her not being part of the sports’ historic debut at Sochi was not in her lexicon.
As the slopestyle events (which feature skiing and snowboarding) were introduced into the Winter Games as a means of attracting younger viewers and traditional X-Games fans, fans are relieved that one of its most successful stars shall be part of its launch. The proud owner of eight X-Games gold medals, the native of Montreal is also the 2013 World Skislope Champion. Her resolve and ability to overcome such a potentially disheartening setback makes her a sentimental favorite heading into the world’s biggest sporting stage.