LAKE LOUISE – Manuel Osborne-Paradis’ fire is still burning.
That fire is his desire to continue alpine racing, despite still recovering from a horrendous injury he suffered a year ago in a downhill skiing training session for the 2018 Audi FIS Lake Louise World Cup.
“It’s a question that we don’t question ourselves ‘Why come back?’ If the flame is still there and you want to compete and you feel like you can, you’re going to do it,” said Osborne-Paradis, the downhill and super-G specialist, with a smile at a press conference on Wednesday (Nov. 27) at Lake Louise Ski Resort.
He has set an ambitious March 1 goal to return to training with the national team.
“If all goes well, you know a March 1 date back with the team to actually ski gates, ski hard is what we would hope for and if that happens, I can get enough days on snow to get ready for this race the following year.”
Osborne-Paradis is optimistic about his recovery timeline. He knows his goal is ambitious, but he is confident in his ability to prove naysayers wrong. It’s not the first time he’s done that. He said the goal is to recover properly and not to injure himself again.
That did happen. A couple months after undergoing two major and seven minor surgeries, being patched up with bone cement and 13 screws, those aforementioned screws had their heads sheared off during a rehab session.
His timeline was set back three months, he called it a “forced slow down."
With the help of a single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scan, typically used to look at tumours and soft tissue, he has gained a better understanding about his recovery.
“The last go-around my X-rays looked perfect, like I could return to activities quite early and we wanted to try out this new scan, which is a scan they are now using for bones.
"As soon as we scanned my leg it was bright red, and so it showed there was still a ton of blood flow going through my leg, which meant it [the bone] was still healing.”
“By going off only X-rays, I would have already been on a more aggressive time line where by the SPECT scan we’re able to take it slower, be much more informed on if the bone is actually healed or not. So that is also a big part of why we’re taking it easier and longer because we have this new technology that said 'hey, listen your bone isn’t actually healed, so don’t go out and re-break it right away.' ”
Osborne-Paradis said he has one shot to recover the right way, or the 11-time world cup medallist could run the risk of missing out on his his ultimate goal, skiing in his fifth Olympics – the 2022 Games in Beijing.
On his new program to recovery, “Manny,” as he is affectionally known on the world cup circuit, is "playing" hockey three times a week, lifting weights, and even tried skipping.
“The last six weeks or so, I’ve really been able to push it in the gym and not have problems with the bone. It’s just been a strength issue.”
“Skipping has been really nice and you know that will lead eventually to jogging, which hopefully will lead to loosing my plus-15 that I have right now because I just lift weights and then go back to the couch,” said Osborne-Paradis with a laugh as he patted his stomach.
In six weeks time he will re-assess his left leg and determine whether or not he can return to the snow. He says it would be very basic snow plow and skiing with his daughter, Sloane.
Despite the setbacks and lengthy recovery time physically, Osborne-Paradis said this injury has been easier to face mentally compared to his previous ones. He credits spending time with his family as a silver-lining of his injury. Osborne-Paradis said previously he would be on his own, which made the recovery drag on and on.
“My daughter spent a lot of time with me on the couch … I’m not sure if it was quality time or not, but it was to me and those are hours and days that I will always cherish.”
Above all, recovery has taught him patience.
“Hopefully in 14 months, I’m back sliding around – 16 months back to healthy and then it will be 24 months, it’s a grind, it’s been a little more of a battle than all the others.”
This is not the first time he has been back to Lake Louise since the injury, but he said being back for the world cup this weekend at Lake Louise is a boost.
Having the chance to reconnect with friends has stoked his flame to compete again, and he is excited to watch some skiing again.
“There’s tons of times when you could quit, and you don’t, you persevere through – you’re pushing your own limits.”
“The beauty of skiing is that it’s kind of like riding a bike…nobody gets worse at skiing, everybody always gets better,” said Osborne-Paradis.