Just when things were going better than ever for World Cup snowboarder Callan Chythlook-Sifsof of Alaska, she hit rock bottom. Literally.
The 22-year-old Olympian suffered a season-ending knee injury last week while free riding at Snowbird Resort in Utah, landing awkwardly on a rock at the bottom of a small cliff.
"I was jumping a cliff and there was a rock underneath the snowpack that was hidden," Chythlook-Sifsof said by telephone from Utah.
She hurt the same right knee that sidelined her in 2008.
"It's not as bad as last time," she said.
Chythlook-Sifsof, who was raised in Dillingham before moving to Girdwood, bounced back from that first knee injury to compete at the 2010 Olympics. So she's been down this recovery road before.
"It's a huge bummer, but in snowboarding you can expect to get injured," she said. "It's pretty common."
The biggest bummer is that Chythlook-Sifsof is currently the eighth-ranked boardercross rider on the World Cup circuit and performing better than ever.
She recently competed at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., where she took second-place honors in the consolation final and finished eighth overall. The competition featured 12 of the world's best riders taking on a gnarly course.
"You'd think an 80-foot jump at the X Games, there's quite a lot more risk involved than there is in the little cliff," she said. "You can look back and pinpoint all the stuff you shouldn't have done, but …"
That's not Callan. She is a free-spirited, no fear lady.
In addition to competing in boardercross in the Olympics and X Games, Chythlook-Sifsof also is an avid racer in the world of free riding, which is both dangerous and delightful.
"I love it," she said. "That's just as much a part of snowboarding as boardercross."
Chythlook-Sifsof will remain in Utah to rehab with doctors affiliated with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team.
"The U.S. team has a really great support team for injuries and so that's always good," she said. "They know what to do. As soon as you get injured you dive into getting back to recovery. It takes a long time. You just put the snowboarding on hold and you focus on being strong again.
"This lady has been through it before; easy recovery and I'll be back in full form next winter."
This article was originally published by The Arctic Sounder and is reprinted here with permission.