Dave Shively's outdoors column appears Sundays in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Contact him at 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Steamboat Springs When I heard the oddly intertwined stories of Brett Buckles and David Lamb - a pair of Steamboat natives who bounced back from debilitating ski injuries to the top of our nation's skiercross ranks - I featured them on our Dec. 30 Sunday Sports front in a story titled, "Comeback Kids."
But then I didn't see their Freestyle World Cup results posted. When I finally contacted Lamb, he jokingly told me that I should've renamed the title, "Comeback kids : come back in ambulance."
Days apart and on French courses 80 miles from one another, Lamb and Buckles both suffered freak accidents during training pre-runs. These were not pretty spills.
Put it this way: Buckles' accident was so severe that she now rates a torn shoulder labrum and rotator cuff as the least of her worries. Practicing for the Jan. 9 Tignes Airwaves event, Buckles was cruising the back-to-back kicker crux of the course and forcefully caught an edge on loose snow before launching the second jump, a 50- to 60-foot step-down.
"I was flying through the air backward in the fetal position," Buckles said, describing what she last remembered before an impact that caused a compression fracture to her pelvis, breaking it in two places. She spent four long days in a French hospital and three more at Denver Health after an air ambulance jet flight, yet she needed no surgery.
Buckles is home in Steamboat and cannot currently use her right leg. But she's already looking past that to when she starts physical therapy Wednesday, and then to eight weeks from now, when she is projected to be walking again.
In a way, Buckles is luckier than Lamb. She can look forward to a full recovery in six months from an impact that often causes paralyzation and internal bleeding (and to the hope of a return to racing).
But Lamb is caught in limbo. Warming up for the Jan. 12 World Cup in Les Contamines, he rolled off a double jump into a backseat landing that whipped his helmeted head back and knocked him out. With serious momentum, he continued to slide down the course, face-first and unconscious. He woke up in an ambulance to French-speaking paramedics who not only delivered him to the wrong clinic but may also have caused significant damage to his neck.
Lamb at first downplayed the crash as "massive whiplash and a quality concussion."
While the cuts covering his face healed in a week, Lamb was put on a U.S. Ski Team indefinite disqualification list as he works with neurologists and doctors to determine the severity of the head injury and if his neck is broken.
Mental toughness oozes from both these athletes, who know all too well every will-testing turn on the "road to recovery." That toughness, their knee-jerk resilience and infectious hope for racing glory make me think I'll have another set of comebacks to write about in the near future.