Heading into the NCAA Championships Mar. 6-9 in Middlebury, Vt., Jeremy Elliot has racked up two career victories, seven appearances on the podium, nine finishes among the top five … and three major injuries.
A senior Alpine skier for the University of Utah, the Park City native first sustained a knee injury when he was 15 years old.
Three years later, Elliot was involved in a motocross accident and doctors proposed a surgery that would leave him a 14% chance of paralyses and they also told him that he would be lucky to walk again, much less ski. With the blessing of his parents, Jim and Brigitte, he opted to refuse the operation and was bedridden for three months before wearing a `turtle-type’ of spine support system for nine months, before making a full comeback to ski racing.
Elliot then suffered a second season-ending knee injury before the 2012 campaign began.
So what keeps him coming back?
“I love skiing,” Elliot said. “I never thought about quitting after any of these injuries. It’s just an addicting lifestyle. You are exposed to so many cool people, and you make a lot of connections and close friends. You travel to cool places and amazing opportunities come up, like for example, a scholarship to an NCAA school. The competition side of it is really addicting as well. When you win a race, there are very few feelings in the world that can top that happiness.”
Three major elements composed the body of each of Elliot’s comebacks, beginning with his family.
“My family has been there with me through all of these injuries,” Elliot said. “My dad (Jim) is a big ski fan. He’s also a real student of the sport. It’s not his job, but just as a pastime he studies and watches every single World Cup race. He’s always reading up on the latest news of the skiing world. He’s a good coach for me, mostly for the mental and motivational things and really helped through the last few injuries to keep me looking forward and believing.”
Elliot’s peers on the Ute ski team have also been a major source of inspiration.
“I definitely felt supported by my teammates and coaches,” Elliot said. “When your friends go out to all of the races and are doing all of these exciting things and the most exciting thing you’re going to do all day is go on the spin bike for 30 minutes, it’s a little depressing, but the team was really awesome to me. I still traveled to a lot of the races during the 2012 season and was around them a lot, which helped me to have some fun and get some positive energy going during a time that otherwise would not be so fun, and pretty negative.”
Perhaps most importantly, Elliot used a strong sense of self-motivation to return to the sport he loves.
“It really comes down to mental toughness,” Elliot said. “At a certain level, all of us have the physical attributes to do well in ski racing, but what separates fast from really fast is what your mind will allow you to do and it pretty much comes down to confidence. You can fake it up to a certain point, but it needs to be real confidence.”
Elliot’s self confidence never wavered as he went through the rehab process.
“I never had any doubt in my mind that I could get back to top form,” Elliot said. “After each rehab I went through, I was a lot more confident that if I did all of the right steps, there was no reason why I couldn’t get back to or even do better than the level I was at before the injury. As long as my body is feeling good, then there’s no reason why I can’t do it.”
And that self-confidence and determination may be just what it takes to compete at a very high level this weekend at the NCAA Championships.
Originally published at UtahUtes.com.