Breezy Interupted Journey Skiing

Breezy Johnson, of Victor, Idaho, gets air during a downhill event in March at the World Cup finals in Are, Sweden. Johnson will miss the 2018-19 World Cup season after suffering a torn ACL in her right knee during a training crash in Chile.

(AP) — There was never a pop, any searing pain or signs of swelling in U.S. downhill ski racer Breezy Johnson’s right knee. She even took a few more runs after her recent crash while training in Chile.

That’s what made the diagnosis so difficult to process: Torn ACL. Season over.

Johnson had a list of goals this season, too. Among them on the heels of finishing seventh in the downhill at the Pyeongchang Olympics last February: Earn her first World Cup win. A top-five finish at the world championships in Are, Sweden. Relish hanging out with Lindsey Vonn as the winningest current female World Cup ski racer (82 victories) chases Ingemar Stenmark’s record (86) in what figures to be Vonn’s final season. Maybe even share a podium with Vonn.

After receiving the news, Johnson spent nearly an hour in the doctor’s office by herself, just thinking. The racer — who grew up in Victor, Idaho, was a member of the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club, and is a Jackson Hole Mountain Resort athlete — doesn’t have a date for surgery yet.

“There’s the emotional part of me where I’m like, ‘[Forget] it, I’m going to be fine. I’m going to put on my boots and just go,’ ” Johnson said in a phone interview. “But the rational thinking of my brain is like, ‘That’s a terrible idea. Don’t do that.’ But it’s Lindsey’s last season. So it’s going to be really sad to not be able to race with her in her final season.”

Johnson was practicing her super-G turns Sept. 3 at El Colorado in Chile when she hooked an edge on the side of a hill and awkwardly tumbled, landing on her face. She felt a twinge in her knee, but nothing more and no swelling.

“It’s almost like my body wanted to shield me from the news,” Johnson said.

Checked out in Chile, the medical staff thought maybe a partial tear. She returned home to undergo more tests.

Checked out again in Utah, the doctors saw the tear on an MRI. It’s the second big injury of her career. In March 2017, she suffered a tibial plateau fracture in her left leg during a crash at the World Cup finals in Aspen, Colorado.

“That one, it swelled up and I was in pain,” said Johnson, who stepped onto her skis at 3 years old to whisk down her driveway. “This one, it was just a little bit of instability.”

At 22, Johnson is part of the next wave of Americans following in the footsteps of racers like Vonn. Johnson has had five top-10 finishes on the World Cup circuit, including fourth in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, last February — a race Vonn won.

Two weeks after that race, Johnson took seventh at the Pyeongchang Games — 1.12 seconds behind winner Sofia Goggia, of Italy. It was a solid showing that day by the Americans, with Vonn taking third and Alice McKennis fifth.

“That one race was amazing in part because I knew that I had skied my absolute best,” said Johnson, who also finished 14th in the super-G at the Olympics. “I prepared for that moment, gave it everything I had, and I did the best run I possibly could physically and mentally. When you can leave it all out on the hill, there’s no better feeling.”

She had grand visions this season, like sharing a World Cup podium with Vonn, who may not be around when Johnson returns from the knee injury.

“If this was the last season of my career or an Olympic year, I might consider just skiing on it,” said Johnson, who’s walking around on the knee with no real pain. “It doesn’t seem that unstable. But at 22 years old, I don’t want to ruin my knee now. I know I’ll be fine long-term and will be back, and I will just have to keep working.

“But it’s just hard right now — watching your teammates go on without you.”

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the "Report" link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.