It's all in Bauer's head
Aerials skier never stopped training despite a complex concussion
By ALISON KORN, QMI AGENCY
If aerials skier Veronika Bauer makes it to the 2010 Olympics, she'll truly be able to say her achievement was all in her head.
After hitting her head on landing during a training camp in early January 2009, Bauer was confined to the couch until this past November with post-concussion symptoms of headaches, fogginess and short-term memory loss. But even while forced to stop exercising, the 30-year-old kept on training -- in her mind.
"I have used visualization throughout my career and know that it works," Bauer, a Toronto native, wrote on her blog. "I've never had to rely on it without combining it with physical training, but the brain doesn't know the difference.
"Every training day I'd get my e-mail (from coach Daniel Murphy). Lie down in my bed, slow my heart rate and get to a meditative state. There, I could see my surroundings and feel my body at the top of the ramp, skiing in and feeling the surface under my skis -- seeing the jump in front of me, saying my cue words and feeling myself ride off the jump perfectly."
Day after day, jump after jump, all summer Bauer did the same workouts in her mind that she would have done on skis. All of them done perfectly, to the point where she felt that the concussion, while taking months away from her life, didn't take away from her training.
Amazing what the mind can do -- and now Bauer has made a seemingly miraculous recovery, reclaiming her goal of competing in her third Olympics next month, despite next to no physical preparation.
"I think the only person who believed I could make that miracle happen was my coach," she said.
"After laying on a couch due to a complex concussion for 10 months, weak and overweight, do you think a person can get back to world class level in one month?"
She's getting there. At the two-day world cup in China in December, Bauer placed 15th on the first day and sixth the next, making the final by executing her most difficult trick for the first time since her return. This despite huge knee pain, as her untrained body isn't used to the force of the landings.
The Calgary world cup is this weekend, Jan. 8 to 10.
Next will be world cups in Deer Valley and Lake Placid. Olympic selection will be based on an athlete's top four world cup finishes, with 18 spots available across the freestyle, moguls, ski cross and aerials disciplines. Up to four male and female athletes per discipline are allowed.
The final team announcement won't be made until January 25 -- a mere 19 days before the women's mogul skiers compete under the Olympic rings at Cypress Mountain.
While Bauer's confidence and courage are amazing, it's only because of her long history in aerials that she's able to pull this off.
A 12-year veteran of the national team and the 2001 world champion, Bauer followed that up with a silver-medal performance at the 2003 world championships.
A two-time Olympian, Bauer has reached the world cup podium 18 times in her career, including four victories.
"I guess I've always set my goal to win an Olympic medal, and even throughout the whole time, I've never doubted in my mind that I would be there and do that," said Bauer.
"I'm glad I have a chance again, whereas when I was sitting on the couch, I had no control. It's just nice to be alive."