It’s another long road back for Breezy Johnson, a fifth-year Alpine A member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team.
Johnson, 23, from Victor in eastern Idaho just over the Tetons from her native Jackson Hole, Wyo. was feeling stronger than ever.
She had returned to snow and was tackling 2019-20 prep period ski team camps.
But, three weeks ago, she sustained a left knee injury during a training camp at the team’s official training site Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California.
It forced Johnson to once more rehab before she can return to the Audi FIS Ski World Cup circuit, according to the U.S. Ski Team’s June 17-21 weekly web site update.
On June 13, Johnson tore her left posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) after catching an edge and crashing hard in giant slalom training.
Johnson missed the 2018-19 season due to a right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear she suffered in Sept. 2018.
She worked tirelessly in the gym to get strong and return to snow. Throughout her rehab, she chronicled the highs and lows of the experience in a series entitled “Patient Notes.
The injury came in the wake of her 2018 competitive season that was Johnson’s most successful to date.
Of her 15 downhill and super giant slalom starts, she was in the points 10 times, top-15 five times, top-10 four times, and narrowly missed her first podium in Garmisch, Germany, finishing in fourth place.
At her first Olympic bid in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018, she grabbed a solid 14th-place result in super-G and a seventh in the downhill—just 0.65 seconds off the podium. They were incredible results for the first-time Olympian.
In fact, she was the second-best American in the Olympic super giant slalom, 1.03 seconds behind gold medalist Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic and 0.65 seconds behind sixth-place Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. Ski Team.
Never one to mince their words, Johnson’s feelings about the injury are poignant and powerful. This is how she described her latest knee injury sustained at Mammoth:
Johnson said in the ski team report, “Devastated, gutted, shattered.
“These adjectives don’t do justice to how I’m feeling right now. Training GS last week I randomly caught an edge, crashed hard and tore my PCL and MCL. This was not the leg that sustained an ACL tear last September. I honestly do not believe that it had anything to do with my injury from last year. I just had some absolutely sh*t luck. Again.
“I’ve already said I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. This injury disproves that hard work always pays off.
“I am lucky enough to have the resources to help me overcome this injury. But trying to find meaning in what happened doesn’t do justice to the awfulness of the situation. It sucks; I won’t lie.
“I just returned from my ACL. I put everything I had into that recovery. I don’t mean this as a brag; I don’t mean this to criticize anyone else rehabbing, but I feel a bit like I worked harder on that ACL recovery than anyone ever has. And let me tell you it was NOT easy. And this one will require even more.
“I already know this. And though I know everyone wants to say ‘you’ve already done this, you can do it again!’ To be honest this doesn’t help me, it even terrifies me a bit. Because I was, I am, still worried I can’t.
“I just had a somewhat miraculous ACL recovery, I was back on snow at four months, skiing gates at five and a half, skiing downhill seven months after surgery. And more than that I felt good doing it. I knew I was stronger and hungrier than ever. And though I hope beyond hope I can do it again I will make no guarantees about returning quickly or well (at least in the short term).
“I learned from this injury that there‘s a lot of work involved, there’s a lot to do with the amazing staff and the great support, but there’s also a bit of luck involved.
“But what I do know is that there’s no going back. There’s only through. And I love this sport so I’ll give it everything I have, and more.
“And I ask that rather than telling me that I will do it again, say, ‘when you feel like you can’t, I’ll be here. When you need that extra bit of strength, take some of mine.’ And maybe, maybe then, I can, we can, defy the odds one more time, and set new records on what can be accomplished.”
Johnson underwent surgery in late June, and began the long, arduous road to recovery.
She said that she is thankful to the community for the support and wants everyone to know—from sponsors to fans and beyond—that she will return.
Stay tuned to Johnson’s Instagram for frequent updates from Johnson as she experiences the highs and lows of returning to the mountain.
After her first knee injury in 2018, Johnson shared the ups-and-downs of her rehabilitation in the “Patient Notes,” column through the U.S. Ski Team.
The column’s volumes included the titles, “Pain is Temporary,” “Ferocity and Frustration,” “Lies and Greed,” and “Like I Never Left.”
Being an injured athlete can be challenging and lonely, she said. Johnson hoped that readers would follow her journey to learn how challenging it is both physically and mentally to return to snow at the elite level.
Johnson first strapped on skis to ski down her driveway at age three and hasn’t slowed down since.
Her father was her first coach when she started competing in club races for the Kelly Canyon Ski Team while she was still in kindergarten.
A few years later, she joined the Jackson Hole Ski Club, splitting her time between training under the lights of Snow King during the week and ripping up the black runs at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on the weekend.
When Breezy was 13 she moved to Utah’s Rowmark Ski Academy to pursue her dreams of ski racing while maintaining a balance of school academics and skiing.
Upon graduating from Rowmark, Johnson moved up to the USST “A” team and burst into the World Cup scene in a big way during the 2016-17 competitive season.
She finished 18th in the Audi FIS Ski World Cup downhill standings and 36th in super giant slalom. She started the season with a bang, finishing in 11th place in the first downhill at Lake Louise and never looked back.
A 10th-place finish at Cortina in downhill qualified Johnson for the 2017 World Alpine Ski Championships at St. Moritz, Switz. As the youngest member of the U.S. squad there, she raced to a 15th place in downhill and 28th in super giant slalom.