Olympic gold-medal favourite Mark McMorris is in “great spirits,” despite a fall that fractured a rib and nearly derailed his dream.
Don McMorris, the snowboarder’s father, says Mark is moving around quite well after the incident during Saturday’s slopestyle event at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.
“When we left him (Sunday), he could bend over and touch his toes because of where (the injury) is at,” Don McMorris told The Canadian Press on Monday. “You know a cracked rib in the front, you couldn’t do that, but where it’s at (around the back), he could bend to his toes and could raise his knees up to kind of his chest.
“He was really doing better than we all thought. He’s got five or six days before he has to worry about riding and he’s got the best people around him.”
Mark McMorris caught his snowboard on the lip of a rail and went sliding down the bar on his right side before landing hard on the snow during the final. He stayed on the ground for a few minutes before riding down the hill under his own power.
It seems the 20-year-old Regina native lost focus.
“He probably hit that rail through the week, I don’t know 50 times, and never had a problem with it or any of the rails because that’s, I think, one of the strongest parts of his riding,” said Don McMorris, who was in Aspen when his son fell. “But obviously he was focused on what he was going to do on the jump line because he was going to try something pretty major.”
Don McMorris says his son didn’t hurt much at first, but the pain got worse as the afternoon wore on. Mark McMorris finished with a silver medal at the event, but was “pretty down,” said his father.
Mark McMorris had said being an Olympian is a dream come true.
He was the two-time defending Winter X Games champion in slopestyle. When he was named to the Olympic team earlier this month, McMorris said he’s been “preparing like a mad man.”
The fall raised questions as to whether he could compete in Sochi.
“He was really scared, not necessarily about his own well-being, I don’t think, but that he wouldn’t get to go to the Olympics,” said Don McMorris. “That was really playing on his mind and when he does that, he just gets really quiet and doesn’t really talk or say much to anybody.
“And you could just tell that he was really scared and worried about not getting to fulfil his dream.”
The elder McMorris says the tough part was waiting to hear what the team doctors had to say. He describes it as an agonizing wait of about three hours. They eventually decided Mark would go to Sochi, as planned.
“I can’t tell you what he said because that would not be printable,” joked Don McMorris. “He was really relieved.”
A fractured rib usually takes six weeks to heal, so Mark McMorris won’t have time to fully recover before the Games start Feb. 7. But his father is cautiously optimistic.
“Yes, I’m optimistic, (I) have to be,” he said. “I mean maybe too optimistic because there’s going to be a lot of pain and . . . you don’t know how the body will react, but compared to what it could have been, we’re pretty happy.”