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Thrill Of Victory; Agony Of Injury (2/28/14)

BY JON LUJAN


Epic powder day with my teammates!

The night after my downhill crash
 Hand after 10 days

 Leg after 10 days

 Throwback picture of me and Emily

I am thrilled to announce that I have been nominated to represent Team USA in Sochi as a member of the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team. I am beyond ecstatic. Although in my mind there wasn’t any doubt on whether I would represent our country. I hope this doesn’t come across as arrogant, but it isn’t just a goal to go to the Games; I honestly would like to compete my best and hopefully garner a podium. I hadn’t realized that it’s been some time since my last blog update. The last two months are kind of a blur. 

January found me gone from the 1st through the 21st at different races. We had NorAm races in Winter Park, Colo., over the New Year’s, then left for Panorama, British Columbia, immediately after for some world cup races, followed immediately by world cup races in Copper Mountain, Colo. I struggled a little bit at the races and crashed in several, but I feel like I am pushing the limits, skiing faster than I ever have and am not at all disappointed with the results. Returning home to Aspen, Colo., I was able to take a few days and powder ski in some of the most epic POW I have ever seen. It was waist-deep in places and to watch my teammates on their mono-skis ripping through the deep stuff was awesome.

We then had U.S. national championships for downhill, super-G and super combined at my home hill here in Aspen. On Feb. 11, I was able to secure the national championship title for downhill by 0.12h of a second. The following NorAm downhill didn’t quite turn out for me. I crashed at one of the fastest parts of the course, and let me tell you it was the hardest crash I have ever taken. I suffered a boxer’s fracture to my fifth metacarpal (pinky finger), sprained my left ankle and wrist, bruised and cut my right forearm, bruised ribs on my right side, tore my right gastrocnemius muscle (calf) and the two tendons that attach it at the top and bottom, and, finally, had a non-displaced tibial plateau fracture. The good news is than none of the injuries require surgical intervention. I was really holding my breath when the doctor came in to give me the news.

This means that I have to have intense physical therapy until I leave for Sochi. I have been receiving therapy at Aspen Physical Therapy and the team there is excellent. They are taking an aggressive treatment protocol to try and get the muscle and tendons to a functioning level. I will then transfer to the U.S. Paralympics medical staff once I get to Sochi. Being that my first scheduled race in on March 9, I’m hoping to get back to a level where I can try and compete with the best in the world.

I’m also very fortunate to be on the receiving end of a pretty prestigious award that is given by Centura Health at home in conjunction with Porter Hospice and St. Anthony’s Hospice in Denver. The event is called Soup for the Soul, and here’s an explanation of the award I’m receiving: The Soup for the Soul Award of Courage began nine years ago to recognize courage in the face of adversity. This award honors people who have handled themselves with grace and dignity and who have inspired others along the way.” I am so humbled to be in such good company of such honorable past recipients. I am also going to be in Sochi when the event takes place so I am glad that my brother Chris will be there to accept on my behalf. My brother has and always will be my best friend. I love you, man! I also want to thank the First Lady of the Marine Corps, Mrs. Bonnie Amos, for helping secure a color guard for this event!

So many great things are happening this month and I have chosen to focus on the positive blessing rather than the serious injury I have. I’m so excited to be one of 18 U.S. veterans that are going to be competing in Sochi! My mom, dad and daughter will also make the journey to Russia to watch me compete, and I want to give a special shout-out to some of the special people and organizations that are helping defray their travel costs:

-Keith and Kimberly Engler (Thank you for your substantial gift. I am awe struck at your family’s generosity and humbled beyond words)

-Team Semper Fi

-The Caldwell Mason Morse grant through Aspen Valley Ski Club (AVSC)

-Procter and Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” program

It’s overwhelming to look back at where I was in 2005 following my surgery and where I am at now. To have so many fans all over the country and world supporting and encouraging me is amazing. As I celebrated my 43rd year on this earth last week, I was awestruck at how many people that I personally have rooting for me. My cell phone and Facebook were abuzz and that’s just a fraction of what the other 79 other athletes have rooting for us. I never realized how much added pressure that it puts on all of us. WOW, the enormity of what I am going to is kind of hitting me.

What an honor it is for every one of the athletes around the world to represent their countries. I only wish that I were 100-percent healthy, but rest assured I am going to give it my best. No matter the outcome at these Games, I am shooting to be in Korea in four years as a medal contender and not a long shot!

I want to thank all of you for your continued support of my teammates and I, and wish us luck in Sochi! Go Team USA!!! I look forward to blogging about my experiences there next month!

I would like to end with something my daughter texted me recently when I was feeling bad about some of the things I said to her in my outbursts. At the time, I said things to her that I can never take back that were hurtful, and eventually I realized I wasn’t mad at her, I was mad at myself for what I thought was failure.

“Dad. I love you so much! Don't ever think about stuff like that. I don't even remember any of it. I had no idea that bugged you because I don't remember you being mean or mad at me. Please don't fight demons like that. I'm strong like you. Remember. You're the bravest coolest best person I know. Don't ever ever forget that!”

I sure love that girl. As Emily puts it, “You and me against the world!!”