Last July, nordic combined athlete Stephen Schumann (Park City, Utah) crashed while ski jumping in Park City Utah. When he was told what the damage on the knee was, he knew his 2018-2019 season was over. He had torn his ACL while sustaining other damage to the knee as well.
Now, Schumann is coming up on 12 months from the injury. When asked what the hardest part of the recovery was, Schumann responds, “Being solo.” That isolation ended up being a blessing in disguise. “I learned a lot about myself through this process,” says Schumann.
Schumann’s teammates departed for Europe to train and compete while he stayed at home, tasked with recovering from the devastating injury. A busy life became his best friend. He spent all his time between the gym, working at a bike shop, and taking classes at the University of Utah- where he accumulated 20 credits.
3.5 months after the injury Schumann was back on cross country skis. At first, he could only classic ski on flat terrain. By the end of February, he could skate ski again- a major milestone physically and mentally. Finally, he could train for half his sport. Ski jumping, the other half, would require much more knee strength.
In early June, 10 months after the injury, Schumann rode up the chairlift at the Utah Olympic Park- skis in hands. This is a lift he has ridden thousands of times in his lifetime. This lift ride on June 6th though, this one was special. “Obviously there were a lot of emotions,” says Schumann.
He put his skis on and slid out onto the bar. “If I had more time to think about it, I would have gotten in my head,” Schumann says. So instead of thinking about it, he just let go.
By now, Schumann has taken 57 jumps this summer. When asked about the difficulty of coming back after such a long break, he replies, “ski jumping is like riding a bike, hard to forget.”
Before the injury, Schumann was one of the top junior nordic combined skiers in the world. The 2019-2020 season will be his last season eligible to compete in the Junior World Championships. This is a competition Schumann thinks about often. He puts it bluntly saying, “I want to win that.”