US skier Ford not surprised by 1st top-10 finish since crash
SÖLDEN, Austria (AP) — American skier Tommy Ford finished in the top 10 of a World Cup race on Sunday for the first time since his devastating crash two seasons ago.
“Not surprising at all,” the 33-year-old Ford said after finishing sixth in the season-opening giant slalom.
“I have been working at it and done it before. My knee is feeling good, so it feels good to be able to push it like that,” said Ford, a three-time Olympian who won one World Cup race and finished a career-best fifth in the giant slalom World Cup season standings of 2019-20.
It was only his fourth top-level race since recovering from numerous injuries he sustained in a horrific crash near the finish of the GS in Adelboden, Switzerland, in January 2021. He suffered a concussion and damaged ligaments and the meniscus in his right knee, broke his tibial plateau and hurt his wrist.
His best result in the traditional season-opener, a challenging GS on the steep Rettenbach glacier, was fourth from the 2019 edition.
On Sunday, Ford skied a rather conservative first run, trailing leader and eventual winner Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 2.38 seconds in 26th position.
However, Ford pushed to the limits and clocked the fastest time in his second run, even beating Odermatt’s effort by 1.22, and ultimately finishing just two-tenths short of what would have been his fourth career podium.
“That first run was just good feeling skiing, I knew I wasn’t fast,” Ford said.
“Second run, I definitely let it go, a little bit more on the edge. I was just a fraction of an inch away from doing that the first run. I know the feeling because I have been doing that in training.”
After his crash, he underwent surgery several times, and after recovering physically and dealing with bouts of depression, Ford got back on the snow at the U.S. ski team training base in Copper Mountain, Colorado, in November.
His first race back was the Olympic giant slalom in Beijing in February, where he came an impressive 12th, before competing in two more races in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, the following month.
Ford started the offseason with a surgical follow-up before doing strength work over the summer. He had training camps with the U.S. ski team in New Zealand and Chile, finally skiing without a knee brace again, and got the fine-tuning for the start of the season in Italy and Austria.
According to Ford, it was mainly about building confidence.
“It really felt good throughout. The last couple of weeks I have been able to push it more,” Ford said, adding that a mental health coach on site helped him to feel comfortable going into Sunday’s race.
Ford will try to keep the momentum going at a parallel race in Austria on Nov. 13, then must wait another four weeks until the next giant slalom, in France.
However, he is considering adding another discipline to his schedule in which he has competed only twice in the past six years.
“I will fight for some super-G spots,” Ford said.
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