Ty Wiberg in action for the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Team at Crosscut Mountain Sports Center in Bozeman, Mont.
At 21 years old, Para Nordic skier Ty Wiberg has already faced 27 surgeries. So, it’s safe to say that surgeries and medical procedures are a normal part of his life.
Having been born with spina bifida, the biathlete and cross-country skier is no stranger to hospitals, but his latest surgery took him by surprise.
“This surgery wasn’t anything new, but I haven’t had one in 4-5 years,” Wiberg said. “Things were going well, and then all of a sudden, something went wrong that you didn’t expect — it was frustrating. There were a lot of emotions.”
The surgery fell on Halloween and was done as a way to remove a shunt that was present in his brain since birth.
Via social media, he shared: “With huge advancements in technology and surgery in the last 20 years they were now able to put a hole in the base of my ventricle for fluid to drain. Allowing me to have more longevity and less problems…”
His reason for sharing openly was to let others know that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes — a message he shares a lot. “You don’t always have to put a smile on your face,” he said. “It’s okay to have a bad day, but you’re in control of what happens when you’re down in the dumps.”
That motto is one he has to constantly remind himself of.
“While I’m all healed, and my fitness is slowly coming back, it’s the mental side that’s hard,” Wiberg revealed, returning to the snow four weeks after surgery. “I’m not hitting the goals I set for myself prior to all this happening, but I’m grateful for the ability to be skiing as soon after surgery as I am.”
Something that helps him stay in the right mindset is journaling.
“Looking back in my journal and seeing where I was and if I’m upset about a practice, telling myself, ‘hey, you just had surgery.’ This is part of the process,” he remarked.
His coach, Nick Michaud — the coach for the Crosscut Elite Team and the U.S. Para Nordic development coach — also keeps him in check.
“He’ll tell me if I say practice sucked, ‘You’re doing so much better than any of us expected this soon after, so I have to give myself more credit.’”
The junior at Montana State University competed in his first race following surgery at the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Sit Ski Nationals in Midway, Utah. Only a month after getting back on the hill, Wiberg cleaned in biathlon, hitting all 10 of his targets.
“I didn’t do as well as I hoped in the 5K, but that was kind of expected,” he said. “Overall, just getting to be there and compete was a victory in and of itself.”