The Olympics are full of improbable stories. But one of the hardest to believe has to be that of Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris. Last March, McMorris nearly died after hitting a tree in the backcountry near Whistler, B.C. He suffered a gruesome list of injuries: a broken jaw, a broken left arm, a ruptured spleen, a stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung. He credits his brothers and his friends for staying calm and keeping him stable until a helicopter could fly him back to a hospital.”I’ve been in the hospital quite a bit and it was definitely the most serious, the most panicked I’d ever seen doctors and paramedics, trying to get him in that MedEvac down to Vancouver as soon as possible,” his brother Craig said.
He spent 10 days in hospital and was on a liquid diet for six weeks. And then the recovery began. McMorris would need months of physiotherapy.But McMorris was determined to not just get back to snowboarding but to get back into competition, knowing the PyeongChang Olympic Games were just months away. Days after waking up, 24-year-old McMorris was already showing some of that mental fortitude that would be crucial during his recovery. By August he was back on a snowboard, and by November he won a World Cup event in Norway. “That was definitely one of those moments that no words can describe. It was the happiest moment of the whole recovery, I think. Just battling through it all, first event back, winning and doing some pretty hard tricks in a pretty hard field of riders was pretty cool,” he told Sportsnet magazine in an interview.
His recovery has people comparing McMorris to Canadian superhero Wolverine, the indestructible mutant with rapid healing powers. It’s also put him in the spotlight. He picked up an ESPY Award for best male action sports athlete in July. The CBC also featured him in a 45-minute documentary. Which brings us to the slopes of PyeongChang, just 11 months after the accident that almost claimed his life. McMorris has added another Olympic bronze medal in slopestyle to his trophy case.
“I’m on the podium and I probably shouldn’t even be here,” McMorris said. “So I’m pretty stoked.” The fearless Canadian was in the lead for most of the final round and was narrowly beat by American Redmond Gerard and teammate Max Parrot. He hasn’t forgotten his journey either, as a tweet following the medal ceremony showed. He’ll also get another shot at the podium at these Games in the big air event next Saturday. It’s the Olympic debut for the event and one that McMorris knows well from the World Cup circuit.
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