Injuries have plagued her and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic cut her comeback season short, but Breezy Johnson is back and seems finally able to put all the past three seasons’ heartbreak behind her.
Johnson, a Victor, Idaho, native and Olympic downhill skier, returned to competition last week at U.S. Nationals on Copper Mountain in Colorado, and came away with victory in the downhill.
“Today was good,” she told SkiRacing.com immediately after. “It was nice to have sort of a pre-race race.”
It had been a good long while since Johnson had taken to a hill for a non-World Cup event. The last time she wasn’t competing on the world stage was back in spring 2016.
“It’s just been a timing thing,” she said Monday. “We don’t normally have races in November in Colorado, and once we leave for the World Cup tour I don’t really have time for other races.”
And as nice as the downhill victory was, along with a third-place finish in Super-G, it’s the World Cup tour that Johnson is aching to get back to. For the first time in years she’s entering the season with a full training camp and healthy limbs.
Injuries have been the plague dating back to 2017. At 21 she earned her spot in the ski racing world’s consciousness with a seventh-place result in the downhill at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The following September, during training in Chile, she tore her right anterior cruciate ligament, ending her season. Before that it was a tibial plateau fracture during a crash in Aspen in 2017 that sidelined her.
And then, last season, she was in Europe, securing a fifth-place finish in a World Cup downhill when the entire world came to a coronavirus halt.
“I wasn’t as bothered by COVID, because COVID happened to everybody and not just me. There were bigger things going on in the spring,” she said. “But I’ve felt like I’ve been on the brink of World Cup success for a really long time, and hopefully this year I can finally start to reap the rewards of a really long period of hard work.”
As for what those goals would be, Johnson is able to rattle off a few while still acknowledging so much of this season still lies ahead. She wants to win a World Cup, and she wants a medal at the World Championships.
“I don’t think achieving or failing at those things is going to determine whether it’s a success or failure, but I definitely feel like I’m skiing really well,” she said. “It’s just like a holding pattern fo waiting for the season to start so I can get after trying to achieve those goals.”
Last week’s victory was a nice feeling. It was a packed field with teammates and really the culmination of a three-week training period in Copper.
And even if she feels like she’s about to turn the corner, leaving those injuries buried in the snow at the top of the mountain, lingering memories and fears will likely always be lodged somewhere in the back of her head.
“I think I’ll never be the same person that I was before the injuries. It was such a monumental change in my life and career,” Johnson said. “I think there’s a lot of joy in moving past what happened in these past few months.”
Johnson will be back home for the holiday before getting started on the goals list in Europe next month.