Skier brought to her knees

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Even as Stephanie St-Pierre kept believing in her Olympic dream, the pain in her knees nagged her to surrender.

The veteran moguls skier has had three ACL tears over the course of her career -- two to the left knee and last season's tear to the right.

Despite working vigorously all summer to rehab after surgery in February, St-Pierre can still barely walk down stairs after a day of gym training. By late August, it started to dawn on St-Pierre and her medical team that her inflamed knees weren't ready for this season.

"No matter what I was doing, I was realizing my dream was running away from me," said St-Pierre, close to tears on the phone from Sherbrooke, Que. "It's not a relief. I'm so sad about that decision."

St-Pierre, 24, competed at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, calling them a warm-up for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. She was a bronze medallist at the 2003 World Championship, has eight World Cup podium finishes and 30 top-10 finishes.

She and her medical team will make a final decision about her athletic future in June 2010. In the meantime, she's studying communications at the Universite de Sherbrooke.

"Being a student and training once a day, instead of two or three times a day, should help me a lot," said St-Pierre. "It's been three years that I've been struggling with my knees, so it kind of became obvious that I didn't listen to my body in the last two years, and now it's time to listen to it. I wish the Olympics weren't this year, to give me time to recover."

The Olympics are all about believing in your dreams, but sometimes a cold dose of reality defeats the dream. Right now is a tough time for a winter sport athlete to bail on their Olympic aspirations, with most sports starting their World Cup travels -- and St-Pierre is not the only athlete to recently change direction.

Earlier this month, the 2002 Olympic bronze medallist in aerials, Deidra Dionne, found herself in sudden retirement because of a brain tumour. This week, Austrian alpine ski legend Hermann Maier announced his career was done, following recovery from knee surgery in March.

Whether the decision to stop is spontaneous, as Maier said his was, or reached reluctantly over time, like St-Pierre, it takes courage to leave in an Olympic season. From athlete to bystander -- ouch.

They'll be missed.

ALISON_KORN@HOTMAIL.COM


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