Within a short window of time, a few minutes, the Canadian team took a couple of Mike Tyson-like uppercuts with injuries to two of its top speed racers in the season-opening downhill race in Val d’Isere, France, last week.
Brodie Seger, 24, an emerging leader on the young Canuck team caught an edge seconds from the finish line, narrowly missing the right-side finish post as he spiraled rapidly into the finish area, injuring his shoulder.
The North Vancouver skier, who had the fourth-fastest time on the last training run in Val d’Isere, considers himself lucky to have “threaded the needle” missing the finish post.
Moments earlier, Seger’s teammate and North Vancouver neighbor, Cameron Alexander, 23, crashed on a top section of the course after he also caught an edge, launching at high speeds into the fall line catapulting through a gate panel and sliding hundreds of meters. The crash resulted in a serious knee injury (torn anterior cruciate ligament, multiple meniscus tears and sprains and a fractured tibial plateau).
“I have no idea what happened,” Alexander said from Calgary. “It was kind of grabby snow but mostly it was just bad luck. When I was [crashing] through the gate I knew my knee was done, it was searing pain. Mostly I’m just pissed off that it happened.”
Alexander, with just 10 World Cup starts, including a 10th place at the season-ending downhill last year in Kvitfjell, Norway, is working through COVID protocols to schedule his surgery.
Known as a tough-as-nails athlete, the pain was clearly showing on Alexander’s face on the broadcast feed. His younger brother Kyle, also on the Canadian men’s speed team, was in the finish area watching it unfold on the jumbotron while his parents were watching the live stream in the middle of the night in North Vancouver. “Yeah I don’t think they got much sleep after that,” he said.
As the Canadian team medical staff were tending to Alexander near the finish area after “the longest toboggan ride in the world”, Seger’s crash happened a few metres away. “The doctors were giving me pain meds and then running over to check on Brodie,” he said. “We were both ‘snow snaked.’ It sucks.”
Seger was in the start gate preparing for his race when Alexander crashed and he sensed from the radio chatter that it was serious, “but I did my best to stay in the zone.” Up until the unlucky snow snake moment, he did just that.
“When I came to a stop I was sitting there and I couldn’t believe how quickly it all went sideways,” Seger said. “My legs were cooked at that point but I made it by that last gate and was home free, it felt like a good run and I was reeling in some time … I think I won one of the last splits. Unfortunately it’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Snow snakes take out friends, teammates
Seger arrived back in Calgary and is meeting with team doctors and officials to make a plan for a return after his shoulder is surgically repaired.
“I’m feeling really lucky that it’s the only damage that I did in that crash, it was quite violent at high speed,” he said. “To come away with no significant lower body injury is the most important thing. And even with my shoulder I blew all the ligaments and the AC (acromioclavicular) joint but didn’t do any other damage to the rest of my shoulder so that’s a positive.”
An hour after the race, both Seger and Alexander were in the same clinic in Val d’Isere and are now back in Calgary, under quarantine, separately.
Seger has been gaining valuable experience on the World Cup tour since his first start in November 2017 in Lake Louise, with his best result to date a 13th place in the Beaver Creek downhill in December 2019.
“I’m tentatively optimistic about returning for world champs,” he said. “It’s my goal but obviously a few things have to happen. But I’m going to be pushing hard to get back as soon as I can.”
His younger brother Riley, who doubles on both the tech and speed team, remains in Europe, and scored an impressive seventh-place finish in a Europa Cup super G in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, earlier this week against a world-class field. “I was super pumped to see that result for Riley, in today’s race some dense fog rolled in just before his run on the lower part of the course so the visibility was rough and I think he lost some time down there,” the older brother said.
Cameron Alexander’s brother Kyle is also competing in the Europa Cup event finishing 31st in yesterday’s super G behind teammates Jeff Read (26th place) and Riley Seger (27th) in a visibility challenged day with fog rolling in for later start numbers.
The teammates and good friends have been messaging each other but are unclear if they can see each other due to COVID protocols while in Calgary.
“It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around, we both had our inside edge hooking up on something and taking out our outside ski, which is something you don’t see happen very much at all. It was so fluky … and the fact that it happened to both of us in the same race, it’s really hard to comprehend.”
“But I know that Cam is the kind of guy who’s going to get through this, he’s a machine so in that sense it makes me feel better as I know he’ll make it through this stronger.”