Parks' unpredictable path to PyeongChang
29 June 2017
MOGULS: Imagine securing a personal best performance on the mountain you made your World Cup debut on seven years earlier, only to think your career might be over.
That is what happened to Sochi 2014 Olympian Nicole Parks on February 4th 2017 at the Deer Valley Moguls World Cup.
The 24-year-old was competing in the dual moguls finals at her fifth World Cup event for the season when she set a new personal best finish of eighth place.
However, it was during the same run that Parks thought she had blown her ACL in her knee. She later found out it was a fractured tibia, which although a setback, is not as season-ending as a torn ACL.
“There were a lot of mixed emotions,” Parks said reflecting on the race.
“Firstly I was so happy to have performed a PB coming eighth in the dual event, it was a super tough course but such a great night competing under the lights with thousands of people in the crowd.
“Also, fracturing my tibia that same run was a sad way to end the night as I honestly thought I had ruptured my ACL again which would mean a whole two years of recovery.
“So I was obviously very upset thinking my career was over.
“A few days later I got MRI and X-ray that showed I had a small fracture in my tibia that would require only 12 weeks’ recovery. So, I focused on the positive, and having my season cut short was actually the best outcome and I was feeling grateful.”
The Cooma-born skier who grew up the sub Alpine town of Jindabyne in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains made her Olympic debut at Sochi in 2014.
Alongside her two teammates Britt Cox and Taylah O’Neill, the 21-year-old qualified through to the finals but was unable to progress to the 6-skier Super-Final. She reached her goal of finishing in the top-20, ending the Games in 15th place.
Her season-ending injury in February felt like déjà vu for Parks who suffered a knee injury at the 2015 World Championships in Kreischberg, Austria, forcing her to sit out for most of the 2015/16 season.
“I have had a long road of injuries, but do seem to always come back to my sport,” Parks said.
“I think the thing that keeps me coming back to mogul skiing would be the people. I mean, I love my sport, and still love the feeling I get when I do a great trick, or hit a bump just right. But lately it's been my team members and coaches.
“We've got such a great team atmosphere, a very fun group, and great friends. Even though I ended my recent World Cup tour in injury, it was still the most fun season I've ever had.”
Park’s has spent the past few months attending physio sessions 1-2 time a week and hitting the gym almost every day on her road to recovery. Studying an online university course, working as a trampoline coach and spending time with her family and dogs has kept her busy while her teammates have been off competing.
“I have passed back to snow testing and I feel like I am back to the strength and fitness levels I was at before the injury, if not better.
“I am now all recovered and super keen to get back on snow.”
The freestyle skier will be back in competition-mode next month as the Southern Hemisphere snow season kicks off.
“This Australian season my expectations are not as high as they would usually be, as I am just coming back from an injury and this will be my first training block since then.
“I will be training as hard as I usually do, but also taking it day by day so I can keep a proper eye on how my leg is feeling. I just want to be smart about it coming straight out of an injury; skiing smart is the best thing for me right now.”
Satisfied with her rehabilitation process, Parks is itching to clip on her skis with the prospect of a second Olympic experience at PyeongChang 2018 within her reach.
“After this Australian season I will know where I stand in the pool of results and rankings and how I am feeling about my performances.
“When I know all of those facts I will be able to know exactly what my goals are for the upcoming northern hemisphere World Cup season leading into the Winter Olympics.”
The Australian Moguls Championships will be held 29-30 July at Perisher Ski Resort.