Af­ter a life-threat­en­ing snow­board­ing ac­ci­dent, Mark Mc­mor­ris faces his great­est up­hill bat­tle yet ahead of the 2018 Win­ter Olympics. And he’s not even los­ing his chill

Sharp - - CONTENTS WINTER 2018 - By Alex Nino Ghe­ciu

In an­tic­i­pa­tion of the Win­ter Olympics, we talk to snow­boarder Mark Mc­mor­ris about re­turn­ing to form af­ter to­tal dev­as­ta­tion.

LIKE BE­ING IN A HIGH-SPEED, head-on car crash. That’s how Mark Mc­mor­ris de­scribes it. Dur­ing a film shoot in the Whistler back­coun­try last March, the Olympic snow­board­ing phe­nom lost con­trol off a frontside 360 and can­noned into a tree. It was a bad scene: a bro­ken jaw, a shat­tered arm, a rup­tured spleen, a pelvic frac­ture, rib frac­tures, and a punc­tured lung.

“My jaw was just hang­ing off,” re­counts the 24-year-old Regina na­tive. “I didn’t think I’d ever snow­board again. I was just ly­ing there try­ing to stay awake, wait­ing for the he­li­copter to come. I was puk­ing. I thought I was go­ing to die.”

And he al­most did. He was air­lifted to a Van­cou­ver hos­pi­tal, where he un­der­went emer­gency surgery to stop in­ter­nal bleed­ing and re­pair his many frac­tures. When he fi­nally came to, he ges­tured for a notepad. “The first thing I wrote was, ‘Will I walk again?’ The sec­ond thing was, ‘Can I still go to the Olympics?’”

Months of re­hab later, here at a Toronto gym in Au­gust, Mc­mor­ris’ sights are set mirac­u­lously (if not in­sanely) higher: not only does he plan on at­tend­ing Fe­bru­ary’s Win­ter Games in Pyeongchang, he plans on lay­ing waste there. He qual­i­fied be­fore the ac­ci­dent and should be a medal threat in both the big air and slopestyle events if he’s com­pletely healthy. He cer­tainly looks it — al­most ab­nor­mally so. Most of his in­juries have healed, aside from a lin­ger­ing is­sue with his left arm — a frag­mented humerus is tak­ing longer to re­cover. Men­tally, though, he’s zoned in like Parks and Recre­ation’s Chris Traeger. Lit­er­ally.

“I’m feel­ing really, really good,” he beams. “Much bet­ter than I thought I’d be do­ing at this point. I’m fired up to com­pete again.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Mc­mor­ris has Wolver­ine’d his way back from de­struc­tion. He broke a rib just 11 days be­fore the 2014 Sochi Games but went on to win a bronze in men’s slopestyle. Then, af­ter snap­ping his right fe­mur in 2016, he re­cov­ered in time to snag two golds at the 2017 X-games. He’s con­tin­u­ously de­fied the odds (see also: learn­ing to shred grow­ing up in Saskatchewan’s flat­lands) to be­come one of the world’s most dec­o­rated snow­board­ers. It’s his pos­i­tive, easy­go­ing spirit that’s re­mained un­break­able; no heal­ing fac­tor or adaman­tium skele­ton nec­es­sary.

Of course, this lat­est wreck makes all his past ones look like mere fender ben­ders. The re­cov­ery process has been es­pe­cially gru­elling — end­less hours of phys­io­ther­apy, hy­drother­apy, spe­cial­ized ex­er­cises, chi­ro­prac­tor vis­its, and learn­ing to feel com­fort­able again on the slopes. It’s by far the tough­est fight of Mc­mor­ris’ life. And yet, smart money is still on see­ing him scrape the sky back to the podium come Fe­bru­ary.

“Never say die?” he echoes, un­der­stand­ably con­fused by my ref­er­ence to a Black Sab­bath al­bum well be­fore his time. He thinks about it, then smiles. “Never say die!”

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