SLAM!Sports
February 10, 2006
Jumping scared
When Deidra Dionne goes to the start line, her knees will be knocking with fear
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

BARDONECCHIA, Italy -- For five days Deidra Dionne battled back from her knee injury to get to the Olympics.

Knee? You thought it was a neck?

Five days? You thought it was five months? Oh, that. Yeah, she's battled back from her broken neck five months ago. That, too.

But this was serious. This was an owie. But it almost kept her from writing the final chapter to one of the most amazing comeback stories in the entire history of sports.

"It makes me angry. I'd come so far. I was so proud I made it here. Emotionally to have my Olympics suddenly in doubt over a secondary little injury ... I'm very, very relieved I now know it's going to be O.K. and I'm going to be able to go."

Breaking her neck didn't make her angry. But this did.

The knee tweak left her wondering if the miracle comeback would be stopped days short of being realized.

"I put braces on. I don't feel it. It hasn't hurt training. I'll be ready to compete. But for a couple of days there ..."

The Red Deer freestyle skier said in a weird way her owie caused more anguish than breaking her neck in a training session in Australia and having titanium screws and a piece of hip bone surgically placed in her neck by a team of a dozen surgeons.

"I never thought, 'Why me?' But to get this close and not been able to compete, then I would have been thinking, 'Why me?' "

LAST-MINUTE SCARE

But having the last-minute scare will make the moment even better, she said of the way it will be when she stands in the gate.

"I'm so proud of being able to get here. Just to stand up at the start is going to be huge. To hear my name announced ... that's when I'm really going to say 'Wow.'

"I never felt sorry for myself. The person I was living with in Calgary, Susan Brattberg, my old friend from Red Deer, had three open-heart surgeries. Her philosophy was 'Why take the time to be mad?' It's so pointless. Get over yourself and move on."

Dionne won an out-of-nowhere bronze medal in aerials at Salt Lake 2002. It sounds stupid, she admits, but she went through a form of mental anguish because of her success on the day that she couldn't come close to duplicating every day.

In a weird way, she confessed here yesterday, she thought 'Why me?' about winning.

'I WAS A BIG STAR'

"I was a 19-year-old kid. It was only my second year on the team. I came back with an Olympic medal and my friends didn't know how to treat me because now I was a big star.

"I was just out of high school and I was embarrassed by it. I was going home to friends who were acting different. I wasn't ready for that. I couldn't go back home as a normal kid. That was really hard for me.

"It also hurt my confidence more than it helped. And when I got back to skiing, I felt 'I have to do well.

"Everybody expected me to do well.' I hadn't had any consistency before I won the medal.

"It wasn't until last year that I found some consistency, winning three medals," she said of the World Cup circuit.

Then she broke her neck.

"When I first came back I was jumping 80% committed," she said.

"Everything was safe. You are not going to be successful being safe."

Just being back was considered such an accomplishment that Dionne had to remind herself of who she is.

"Only in the last two weeks have I been finally able to say, 'Here I go.' Now I'll be able to step out and be my best.

"This isn't just about standing up there at the start; it's to show what I can do.

"It was easy for me in Salt Lake. I was jumping well. I was feeling so much confidence. This time I have to rely on my experience."

Dionne said she's not ashamed to confess her knees will be knocking at the start line.

"I'll admit it. I'll be scared.

"But I'll also be reminding myself that I like to be scared. I do this because I like to be scared."


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