Winter sports: Daniel Albrecht won’t ski this season after crash
By ERIC WILLEMSEN
Associated Press Writer
KITZBUEHEL, Austria — Swiss skier Daniel Albrecht will miss the World Cup season because he is still recovering from a nearly fatal crash during a downhill a year ago.
The 26-year-old skier is wary of coming back too early and getting hurt again. He hasn’t set a date for his return.
“When will it be? It doesn’t matter if it will be next season, in one year, or in two years,” he said Thursday. “That’s not important to me. I know that I can do it.”
Albrecht sustained skull and brain trauma and bleedings in his brain and lungs after a full-speed crash at the final jump of the infamous Streif course during a training run. He was kept in a medically induced coma for three weeks to allow brain swelling to ease.
“I am doing very well now. I am very satisfied and I am proud,” Albrecht said. “My injury was no broken leg or arm. I am lucky that I am still here and that I can try again after such a heavy accident.”
Albrecht still has memory lapses and sometimes struggles to find words. He also had coordination problems and broke his right wrist falling off his mountain bike last summer. He is working mainly on improving his concentration and reaction skills, as well as some technical aspects of his skiing.
“I still have the feelings for my skis,” said Albrecht, the 2007 super combined world champion and winner of four World Cup races. “But I don’t know how to react on a bumpy course, or on an icy course. I have to learn that again.”
Albrecht considered returning to the World Cup for the season-opening races in Soelden, Austria, last October. Then he wanted to race in Beaver Creek, Colo., in December. Both times, medical staff and coaches from the Swiss federation had to convince him it wasn’t a good idea.
“The goals he set himself were too high,” said Martin Rufener, head coach of the Swiss men’s team. “In the end, you have to be realistic and get back when you’re really ready for it.”
Rufener admires Albrecht’s spirit.
“It’s incredible where Daniel is right now,” the coach said. “His development has been awesome, especially since autumn. He is so strong, it’s his ultimate desire to get back there again.”
Albrecht joked that he didn’t want to draw attention from countryman Carlo Janka, who leads the overall World Cup standings.
“I thought, Carlo Janka is doing so well now, I will let him enjoy this season,” he said. “And then I’ll come back next year.”
Albrecht understands the obstacles.
“It was difficult as a young skier to get on to the World Cup circuit, to become world champion. You need a lot of luck for that,” he said. “And I will need even more luck to get back there again. That’s a situation that motivates me.”
Albrecht is encouraged by the return of Aksel Lund Svindal. The Norwegian was ruled out for a season after crashing in Beaver Creek in 2007 and came back the next season to win the overall championship.
“That has inspired me,” Albrecht said. “But it’s difficult to compare. I have been in a coma for a very long time; it was a critical situation. He didn’t have that. He was hurt very badly, but you can’t compare us.”
Albrecht has been following the World Cup season on TV. He hasn’t visited the Streif course since his crash and he won’t attend the Hahnenkamm races this weekend.
“I will only go back to the course when I am able to race again,” he said. “Because then I can show this course that it’s me who is the boss, not the course.”