Canada's Melanie Turgeon sidelined with back injury


Canada’s Melanie Turgeon sidelined with back injury{mosimage}Canadian downhiller Melanie Turgeon will have to stay off the slopes until early January to let her back heal, which means she will miss the first speed events of the 2003-04 alpine World Cup season.

Turgeon, 27, the downhill world champion, announced at a press conference in Montreal on Thursday that she had two herniated disks and that she would be unable to ski until the end of December.

“If all goes well, I hope to start training again with the national team at the start of January, and to race again on the World Cup circuit by mid-January, in time for Cortina or Haus,” said Turgeon, whose first race of the season was originally slated for December 6 at Lake Louise, Alberta.

Turgeon, who specializes in the speed events, will also miss the downhill and super G World Cup races at Laax, Switzerland, just before Christmas, and Megeve, France, in early January.

The World Cup circuit will be in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, starting January 16 and in Haus-im-Ennstal, Austria, on January 30.

The top Canadian female skier explained that she fell during a super G practice run in mid-November, as part of the Canadian national team’s training camp at Copper Mountain, Colorado. A minor knee injury quickly healed, but the incident had a longer-term impact on her back. A spinal cord specialist prescribed a cortisone shot to reduce the disk inflammation and a second shot may become necessary over the next few days.

“When a disk is inflamed, it takes away all the strength from the muscles that support the pelvis and the spinal cord,” explained Turgeon. “In everyday life, people can live with a herniated disk, but it’s different when your job is as physically demanding as skiing.”

Turgeon added that rest and physiotherapy will be part of her daily routine over the next month, in hopes that her back muscles regain their strength. She added that for the time being, according to her doctor’s diagnosis, an operation is not indicated.

Although she has had back problems in the past and admits it will not be easy to get back to her top level, Turgeon seemed determined to come back to her usual competitive level.

“I know it won’t be easy, I’ve been battling back problems for so long,” she said. “But I want to come back, and as quickly as possible, because I love skiing, I love showing up at the starting gate and letting it all go on the hill. That’s my passion, that’s what I love most. However, I don’t wan’t to do things half way. When I do come back, it’ll be because I’m ready, because I’ll be solid on my skis, and because I’ll be good enough to have a chance to win more races.

“My goals are to defend my (world championship) title next year (in 2005), and then to take part in the Olympics in 2006. And there will be another world championship in 2007.”

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