‘I broke every­thing’ — snow­boarder McMor­ris bounces back from crash

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - GRE­GORY STRONG

Cana­dian snow­boarder Mark McMor­ris has al­ways had an amaz­ing abil­ity to quickly re­cover from sig­nif­i­cant in­juries. His come­back from a near-fa­tal crash in the B.C. back­coun­try ear­lier this year is just the lat­est ex­am­ple. “I’m feel­ing re­ally, re­ally good,” he said. “For what hap­pened, I’m do­ing way bet­ter than I thought I’d be do­ing at this point in time.” McMor­ris suf­fered breaks to his jaw and left arm, a rup­tured spleen, a sta­ble pelvic frac­ture, rib frac­tures and a col­lapsed left lung when he crashed off a jump on March 25. He was air­lifted from Whistler to Van­cou­ver and un­der­went emer­gency surgery to con­trol bleed­ing and re­pair his jaw and arm. “When you get in­jured usu­ally it’s like, ‘Oh man I’m so bummed, but I can’t wait un­til the next time I can snow­board,’” McMor­ris said. “This time I was like, ‘I can’t wait un­til the next time I can move again or like — live.’ “That (crash) was just gnarly.” The Regina na­tive called it a “huge freak ac­ci­dent,” adding his snow­board’s edge un­ex­pect­edly dug in on the soft snow. He couldn’t stop him­self from drifting too far left and into the tree. “I just whacked it out of mid-air,” McMor­ris said. “It was not a small tree and (it didn’t have) branches on it. I hit it all on my left side. I did a front-side 360 and as I turned around it was just like right there. And then it was just — boom. I broke every­thing, like 16 bones or some­thing in one hit. That’s like a car crash.” The 2014 Olympic slopestyle bronze medal­list was with his older brother Craig — also an elite snow­boarder — and cred­its him for tak­ing charge of the sit­u­a­tion. McMor­ris was out cold for about 45 sec­onds. When he re­gained con­scious­ness, his mind was rac­ing. “I didn’t think I’d ever snow­board again when I was lay­ing there af­ter I hit that tree,” he said. “I was awake and was wait­ing. As soon as the he­li­copter got there (90 min­utes later) I went to sleep. I re­mem­ber the whole time wait­ing, just try­ing to sur­vive be­cause (I) rup­tured (my) spleen and all that and my jaw was just hang­ing. I was puk­ing. I thought I was go­ing to die — lit­er­ally.” Af­ter spend­ing 10 days in hos­pi­tal, McMor­ris was quite limited phys­i­cally for about a month. He started the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process in the Van­cou­ver area and cur­rently spends at least two-to-three hours a day on a "heavy" gym rou­tine and hy­drother­apy work. McMor­ris, 23, was on a liq­uid diet for six weeks — mostly smooth­ies and soup — and has put back on most of the weight and mus­cle he lost over the spring. “It hurts so bad and I hate it ev­ery time,” he said of the re­hab ses­sions. “But when I leave I’m so happy. I’m like, ‘OK that’s one step closer to do­ing what I ac­tu­ally love and what brings me ul­ti­mate joy.’ Also it brings me every­thing I’ve been able to ex­pe­ri­ence in life. “It all comes from snow­board­ing and maybe be­ing who I am. But I am who I am be­cause of snow­board­ing at the end of the day.” There is no firm time­line in place for a re­turn to the slopes. He’s ten­ta­tively look­ing at the fall but doesn’t need to rush back for Olympic qual­i­fi­ca­tions as he has a pro­vi­sional spot on the team for the Feb. 9-25 Pyeongchang Games. McMor­ris, who sat down for a rare ex­tended in­ter­view while in town for pro­mo­tional work with Chee­rios, said he has been buoyed by the tremen­dous sup­port he has re­ceived from fans around the world. “The en­ergy from ev­ery­body mo­ti­vates you to heal,” he said. “(Ly­ing) in the hos­pi­tal and get­ting seven zil­lion texts a day or emails or In­sta­gram (mes­sages) or what­ever. It was like, ’OK these peo­ple be­lieve I can do it, for sure I can do it.’” McMor­ris broke a rib just 11 days be­fore the 2014 Games and suf­fered a bro­ken left fe­mur last year. In both in­stances, he was back com­pet­ing ear­lier than ex­pected. He earned World Cup Crys­tal Globes last sea­son in the new Olympic dis­ci­pline of Big Air and as the overall cham­pion. If his re­hab and re­cov­ery con­tinue as planned, McMor­ris will likely be a medal favourite in both Big Air and slopestyle com­pe­ti­tions in South Korea. “I can’t be av­er­age,” he said.


Snow­boarder Mark McMor­ris is all smiles in Toronto last week. Af­ter a near fa­tal crash he says: “I’m feel­ing re­ally, re­ally good.”


In a photo from his In­sta­gram feed, Cana­dian snow­boarder Mark McMor­ris lies in a Van­cou­ver hos­pi­tal af­ter a life-threat­en­ing crash in the B.C. back­woods.

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