Defying the odds to ski Olympic moguls on a precarious knee would be a compelling enough finale for a career.
But Philippe Marquis prefers to write a different closing chapter.
The Canadian moguls team veteran competed in last year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, minus an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Injured in a training crash a month out from the Winter Games, Marquis decided to have the damaged ACL removed entirely, so he could go to Pyeongchang.
Surgery to repair it would have ended his season.
Blasting through moguls, and launching and landing jumps, without a vital stabilizing knee ligament boggles the mind.
Marquis advanced out of the qualifying round into the top 20, however, with “What ACL?” written on his ski gloves.
His knee didn’t hold up in the next round and Marquis did not advance, but he achieved his Olympic dream by making the improbable happen.
“I just really wanted to make it as good as I could regardless of the result, so I’d be an example and I’d make me proud on top of everything, and everyone watching proud as well, proud that they were Canadian and that I was Canadian,” the 29-year-old from Quebec City said.
Winner of 12 World Cup medals and a world championship silver in dual moguls in 2015, Marquis could have decided gutting his way to his second Winter Olympics was a satisfying way to leave his sport.
But Marquis competed for the first time since the Olympics, and subsequent surgery to replace his ACL, on Friday at a World Cup in Calgary.
“I’ve got my reasons to be back here. Some people might understand and some people might think I’m a fool,” he said.
“I felt last year everything went too quickly and I was out and was home with my leg in the air. It just felt wrong and that I didn’t finish the cycle and didn’t finish on my own terms. I’m a fighter and I wanted to prove to myself I could overcome one last thing.
“I also wanted to have a goal for my rehab. Rehabbing without a physical goal is really tough.”
The top 16 men out of 52 in Friday’s qualifying advanced to the Saturday’s final. Marquis fell just short of the cut in 18th.
“I’ll miss finals, which is something that hasn’t really happened to me in a long time, but I’ve proud of what I’ve done, especially with the lack of training,” Marquis said. “That was a really, really good test for me.”
Teammate and reigning Olympic champion Mikael Kingsbury posted the top score in qualifying. The 26-year-old from Deux-Montagnes, Que., skied right before Marquis.
“I’m proud of him,” Kingsbury said. “It was a nice little moment to be again with him in the start gate. We were going back-to-back.
“When I got to the bottom and received my score, I just turned around and started to be nervous again for my friend.
“It was like that at the Olympics. I was nervous for him, but a bit less here because I saw him in training.”
Kingsbury and Quebec City’s Laurent Dumais, who finished ninth Friday, were the two Canadian men advancing out of the 11 skiing for the host team.
Women’s qualifying Saturday morning will be followed by elimination rounds alongside the men.
Marquis says this season will be his swan song.
“After that I’m going to move on and do something else,” he said. “I feel optimistic about the next chapter, but in the meantime I want to push this chapter a few more weeks and few months.”
Kingsbury has won seven times in Calgary. He posted a score of 83.79 points at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.
Australia’s Matt Graham, the only man to best Kingsbury in Calgary recently with a win in 2017, was second with 81 points ahead of Frenchman Benjamin Cavet in third with 80.41.