Speedy Segal: Historic X Games gold medalist leaving Breckenridge after knee injury | SummitDaily.com

Speedy Segal: Historic X Games gold medalist leaving Breckenridge after knee injury

Alex Matthews
special to the daily
Summit County, Co Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE ” A couple weeks ago, Australian slopestyle skier and Breckenridge transplant Anna Segal enjoyed what she called the best day of her life.

Atop Aspen’s Winter X Games podium, the 22-year-old Melbourne native stood wrapped in her national flag, feeling like an Olympian and soaking up the moment. She had just won gold in the inaugural women’s slopestyle ski event and made X Games history, the ultimate achievement in freestyle sports.

With a huge smile, fancy medal and $30,000 prize, Segal drove her housemates’ communal Jeep back to her seasonal home on Boreas Pass Road. Soon after, the reality of her troubling knee tweak set in.

Inside Clint’s Bakery in Breckenridge just over a week after the Games, Segal explained she had hardly skied since. Two past knee injuries, which each set her back for nearly a year in 2005 and 2007, have made the 5-foot-3-inch champion more wary.

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The time off the slopes had started to wear on her, and as Segal awaited an MRI last week to diagnose the problem, she smothered her anxiety with characteristic cheer.

“I’m pretty sure it’s not anything too bad, but I’m just being cautious,” she said. “It’s a risky sport, so it kind of comes along with it.”

As she lounged with her legs crossed, black moon boots up to her knees and blonde ponytail messily tossed beneath a baseball cap, Segal looked like a ski bum ” an elite, extreme, X Game ski bum, but someone who belongs in Breckenridge nonetheless.

Worst-case scenario, she might take a surf trip to Jamaica in a few months if she has to stop skiing, she said. That was Segal’s upbeat attitude talking.

After an appointment at the Vail Valley Medical Center, she learned of her torn meniscus, which requires surgery with a six-week to four-month recovery and an unplanned trip home.

Segal’s insurance will not cover the procedure in the U.S., so she had to book the soonest flight back to Australia. She leaves Sunday and has an appointment halfway around the world on Thursday.

The seriousness of her injury and estimated healing time will not be known until operation. “Either way, I will be back in the U.S. by June at the latest to ski at Mount Hood,” Segal asserted in an e-mail to friends and sponsors, such as K2, Tecnica, Electric, Sessions, Skins and POW Gloves.

Living in Breckenridge since November and hoping to stay through May, she has suddenly had to cope with a dramatic change of plans. She intended to ski year-round and continue chasing winters in the northern and southern hemispheres, moving between Colorado and Australia, like she did last year.

“It’s totally blown me out of the water,” Segal said.

To take her mind off the chaos, she spent last weekend at the Aspen/Snowmass Ski and Snowboard Open watching friends and fellow competitors, such as Washington-native Angeli VanLaanen and New Zealander Amy Sheehan, and Breckenridge’s own Keri Herman.

Facing the facts of injury frustrates Segal, but does not devastate her. Back in Melbourne, she will continue studying at Monash University, where she took a year of law then switched to physiology.

“It’s really good to have school to fall back on,” she said. “If you hurt yourself and have to take a couple days off, you’re not just sitting at home. You can focus on the world. There’s not just skiing, there’s other stuff to do.”

As for her future in Breckenridge, Segal plans on returning next season. And she should. So far, with the exception of her meniscus injury in Aspen, the Rockies have been her good luck charm.

She made a name for herself at Copper Mountain in 2007 after winning the U.S. Open. Last December, she took silver in Breckenridge’s Winter Dew Tour, and she consistently places in world circuit competitions.

“Breck is the neck of freeskiing at the moment,” she said. “It’s got the best park. Everyone comes from all over ” Europe, New Zealand, everywhere ” to ski Breckenridge.”

For now, Segal will focus on a speedy recovery so that she can get back into action. Thoughts of retirement or switching sports never cross her mind.

“I’m the kind of person that’s all or nothing,” she said. “I’m taking it as it comes and putting everything I have into it. So long as I’m competing in slopestyle, I’ll definitely be coming back to Breck.”

The town wishes the same.

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