For the 24-year-old U.S. Ski Team downhill racer Alice McKennis of Glenwood Springs, returning to the Olympics will have to wait for until 2018. The 2010 Olympian announced Thursday that she will opt out of a chance at the winter games next month in Sochi, Russia, and instead focus on returning to full strength for the 2015 World Cup season and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships to be held at Beaver Creek in February of next year. The decision came after complications from surgery she had earlier this year to repair the tibial plateau. She shattered the bone in her right leg into more than 30 pieces during World Cup competition in Garmish Germany in March.
McKennis made her return to snow last October and had hoped to be at full strength in time for this year’s Olympics.
“I still have a lot of pain in my lower leg and that’s affected a lot of muscles in that area and that’s affecting my power. In order to race World Cup at a safe and competitive level you need to be at or pretty close to 100 percent and I know that I’m not there now,” she said. “It’s pretty heartbreaking to miss Sochi, but I’ve already been to an Olympics and I’ve already participated. When I go to the Olympics next time, I want to be a contender and I want to know that I have a shot at a medal. Right now, I don’t feel like I have that shot.”
McKennis had also returned to the World Cup tour for the mid-December speed series in Val d’Isere, France. She placed 43rd in downhill there. Last year, just weeks prior to her injury she had won a World Cup downhill in St. Anton and was on track for Olympic contention.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association reported that McKennis will have the plate and screws from the original surgery removed from her right leg later this month and immediately turn her attention to gaining strength for the 2015 season.
“She made a very mature and smart decision to get strong and come back when she’s physically in a position to be competitive,” U.S. women’s speed coach Chip White said. “She’s worked extremely hard all summer and her focus has been on doing everything she can to qualify for the Olympics. She was way ahead of schedule with rehab and impressed every one. She did all the right things, but it was a severe injury and that takes a long time to heal.”