Seth Wescott celebrates after winning the USANA Snowboardcross World Cup on Dec. 14, 2012 in Telluride, Colo.
For a two-time Olympic champion, Seth Wescott’s goals for this season’s FIS Snowboard World Cup might seem modest.
“In snowboarding, you have to flip a switch and be willing to put everything out there,” he said. “I think for me, it’s getting my head back to where it needs to be in the start gates.”
Wescott, who won the first two Olympic gold medals (2006, 2010) ever awarded in snowboardcross, knows even that aim may be lofty. As he approaches his fourth decade, he admits it’s taken many months to rebuild his fitness after left knee reconstructive surgery in the spring of 2013.
He rushed back to competition, trying — and failing — to qualify for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. His father James died suddenly in May 2014. Then there was a false start of sorts last season, when he traveled with Team USA to Europe before realizing he wasn’t quite ready for the rigors of competition.
“I went there last fall planning to race, and it was apparent pretty quickly I was not physically ready to do what I needed to do,” Wescott said. “I went over to do the first Oslo (training) camp, and I was still in a ton of pain. Plus, that fresh after losing a parent, I was not in a good place last fall.”
But the 12-time world cup medalist never doubted he would return to try for a final Olympic berth in 2018. He went back to basics, working on his own at nearby Carrabassett Valley Academy, focusing on strengthening his cardio base with non-impact workouts and biking. By this spring, he was riding pain-free.
The turning point might have come in March, when he was in Nepal filming the Warren Miller action sport film “Chasing Shadows,” which is currently touring the United States.
|Seth Wescott leads Alex Deibold and Emanuel Perathoner at the USANA Snowboardcross World Cup on Dec. 14, 2012 in Telluride, Colo. Wescott went on to take the gold medal.
"We were doing big mountain (riding) in the Himalayas, in rough conditions and stuff, and it was the first two pain-free days of riding since my surgery,” Wescott said. “And we had a lot of things go wrong in the trip. It was a 21-day trip, and we didn’t get to film the action stuff until the last two days. So I was 19 days of resting and off my legs.”
Things had come full circle, in a way: It was while working with Miller on another film in April 2013 in Alaska that Wescott fell into a crevasse, tearing the ACL in his left knee.
Getting back from that injury was harder than he expected.
“After surgery, I definitely put some pounding on my body when it wasn’t ready,” he said. “I thought of how quickly I healed when I had done my (right) knee at 25, but at 37, it was two totally different ballparks of time. I was humbled it took me as long to heal from the injury as it did.”
After summer camp training in Park City, Utah, and a snow camp in September in Bariloche, Argentina, Westcott is confident his body can take some pounding. He plans to open the season at the world cup in Montafon, Austria, on Dec. 12, with a second event next week later in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
“I know that between now and 2018 there is a ton of strength work to really be back at the top of the world,” he said. “I’m not hoping for anything huge to come of this year. I want to get back out there and see where my mental state is at. I think, for me, that’s really kind of what I need to do more than anything else this winter.”
His teammates, including 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Alex Deibold and three-time Olympian Nate Holland, have given him a boost.
“We have a great relationship, and it’s fun,” Wescott said. “That’s a big part of why I am there and doing it. If it wasn’t a good environment, I would not choose to spend that many months with them. We are all passionate about snowboarding. It’s an awesome group of people to train and compete with.”
Snowboarding isn’t the only endeavor on Westcott’s résumé. He is part owner of the Rack, a restaurant and bar at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley. Recently, he joined the ownership group of Winterstick Snowboards, where he will help design and manufacture the boards. Still, a full-time post-competitive career will have to wait a while.
“I’ve always enjoyed the journey,” he said. “If I had not been injured before Sochi, I don’t know that I would be here. I really want to be able to kind of control my own destiny and decide what my end point will be.
“I feel like, while I still have it in me physically, there is nothing else I would rather be doing.”