A little more than a month ago, things were looking bleak for U.S. alpine skier Tommy Biesemeyer.
On Dec. 29, the ski racer from Keene was blazing down the hill at the World Cup in Bormio, Italy when he had a nasty crash that threatened to derail his season.
When the dust settled, he had severe bruising on his back and a tear to his adductor muscle in the groin area.
Actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visits the US Ski team on Sunday in Schladming, Austria. Tommy Biesemeyer of Keene is pictured on the left next to Schwarzenegger, with teammates Stacey Cook, Steven Nyman and Travis Ganong.
(Photo — Mitchell Gunn/ESPA)
Biesemeyer, who turned 24 on Jan. 30, said that left him with a big decision. Should he opt for surgery, or roll the dice and try to rehab with the chance of getting back on the hill this season?
Biesemeyer chose the latter, deciding to stay in Innsbruck, Austria and work through the pain. The way it looks now, he made the right choice.
He said the recovery has been extremely fast, and he appears all the way back after his strong finish today in the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships in Schladming, Austria. He took 13th place in the super-G, his strongest event.
"I went with that route because I didn't want to end the season," Biesemeyer told the Enterprise from Austria on Friday. "I'm one month out from the injury, and I'm finally feeling good again. I'm starting to play games. I can play soccer. I can cut. I can jump, and I don't have to cater to it. My goal was to get better for the Kitzbuehel super-G (in Austria), and I was able to get in the starting gates at Kitzbuehel."
Unfortunately, Biesemeyer finished that Jan. 25 race in Kitzbuehel with a DNF, but just getting back on the World Cup circuit was a step in the right direction.
"For about two weeks after the injury, I was in quite a bit of pain and sort of had like this feeling of doubt," he said. "(I had this) feeling of doubt that I wasn't going to be able to get better on time. So you sort of start looking at your clock and you know, time is of the essence when it's race season, and everyday you're hoping to get better."
Because of that quick recovery, Biesemeyer has been able resume a season that started off with promise. Prior to the injury, Biesemeyer had three top 30 finishes in the super-G. He took 29th in Lake Louise, Alberta on Nov. 25, 18th in Beaver Creek, Colo. on Dec. 1 and 27th in Val Gardena-Groden, Italy on Dec. 14.
Since coming back from the injury, he has been in seven races overall prior to today, with only the race in Kitzbuehel being at the World Cup level. The others were lower-level events, including three on the European Cup circuit. He didn't have any outstanding finishes leading up to the World Championships, but he felt like he was improving, he said.
"I've been doing a lot of video analysis and focusing on my skiing and just trying to find my touch," he said. "I think I'm definitely getting more comfortable. I think I'm at a point now where I'm fully comfortable and just searching for speed."
Biesemeyer is hoping that speed comes in the final stretch of the season, including the next two weeks in his first-ever world championship races. It's an exciting time to be a ski racer because of the atmosphere there.
"There's going to be a lot of people there," Biesemeyer said last week. "Skiing is the culture here. It's the prime event and they definitely cater to that, the venue, so it's going to be great. We were training with the Austrians on the race hill about three weeks ago and they had the whole stadium set up and the venue holds 30,000 people, and the (tickets) were sold out the minute they went on sale."
Biesemeyer said the super-G was one of three he was slated to participate in during the World Championships, which started Tuesday with the women's super-G and ends on Feb. 17. The others are the super combined on Monday and the giant slalom, which has qualifiers on Thursday, Feb. 14 and races the next day.
Biesemeyer said that like most other skiers he's shooting for a medal or even a top 10 finish in the races. But even if that doesn't happen, he seems genuinely excited just to be there.
"Ski racing in Austria is huge and to be able to have Austria hosting the World Championships is going to be an opportunity of a lifetime," he said.