Looking ahead is right move

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Alice McKennis injured her right leg last season, and she finally realized it would be too dangerous to try to compete in Sochi.

As an athlete, it is easy to focus in on what is right in front of you -- Olympics, world championships, nationals, you name it -- and to never look toward the future and the rest of your career. It is hard to fathom what you might be doing four years down the road. For the past 10 months, my only focus has been to make a comeback from my March injury and be ready in time for Sochi. I’ll admit I did not think much about the future in this period. Only Sochi.

This has only made it harder for me to admit that I am not ready, and that my leg is not in a place to perform competitively and safely. I did everything I could to be ready and prepared. I sweated, worked, cried, pushed through the pain and weakness, and said it all felt fine. But the reality is that even with all the work and dedication I put in, my body is not ready to handle going 75 mph down an icy, steep track filled with turns and jumps.

The plate and 11 screws in my leg have caused too many issues and have prevented me from improving, so after several weeks, I have made the choice to focus on the future instead of right now. I am done racing for the season and will be getting surgery in two weeks to remove the plate and screws from my leg.

It is devastating and heartbreaking to call it just weeks before Sochi, and parts of my mind still urge me to get on an airplane and fly back to Europe to compete in the last races before the Games. Mentally, I still feel like I could maybe do it and make my dreams come true this season. On the other hand, maybe I would put myself in a position that I could not get out of and suffer another injury, and that is a risk I cannot take right now.

Calculating risk is a huge part of ski racing. Taking risks with the line you are skiing, pushing yourself to the limit -- sometimes you have to take a second to decide if it is worth it. Generally you take the risk, but sometimes you hold back to be safer and hope that by not risking it all right then it will pay off later in the course or down the road.

By holding off now and taking care of my health, I have hope that it will pay off down the road. Instead of trying to fight another late-season surgery and rehabbing all summer to get to where I was physically before the injury while my teammates and competitors get faster and better, I will be able to train harder this summer than in three years. This is my fourth year in a row dealing with some sort of injury or surgery; basically, since 2011 I have been fighting to get back to competitive form. I reached that form briefly last season winning my first World Cup, and that one victory alone gives me enough confidence and belief that if I am at that top form again, I can win.

None of it is certain, but I can still follow my dreams and do all that I can to make them come true. I must look ahead -- one year, four years, 10 years -- and put my faith in those years ahead.