In February of 2018, tragedy struck an
Oregon native and Olympic hopeful. While competing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Olympic ski team member Jackie Wiles suffered a catastrophic knee injury.
The damage done was all encompassing, with the Aurora native suffering a broken fibula, torn anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, meniscus, lateral collateral ligament, and aggravating a patella tear.
It was just before the winter Olympics held in PyeongChang, South Korea, and would have been Wiles' second time competing in the games. After undergoing surgery to repair the extensive damage, the long road back toward competition began. But it hasn't been, and isn't, the easiest hill to climb.
"The first four or five months were pretty solid with therapy every day," Wiles said. "Then it has changed to only five days a week. The first bit of that, though, was two times a day in therapy, so it was pretty intense. Now I've been able to have not only therapy but supplement in workouts with my personal trainer as well. I'm still in therapy five days a week and doing a lot of strength training, coordination, agility, cardio, trying to do develop everything as a whole."
Ten months into rehab, Wiles is utilizing various techniques to get back to the top of her game. The toughest part, she said, is the plyometric activities to re-build her explosiveness. Jumping, cutting, taking loads laterally on her legs, it's all difficult. But when you couple the physical nature of her rehab with the mental side of things, it's that much more to work through. Luckily, Wiles is working on that too with sports psychologist Alex Cohen.
"We're really lucky to have good team support," Wiles said. "The psychologist is through the US Olympic Committee. I've been able to work with him for quite a while now, and therapy is covered by the ski team. I have a great staff that's been helping me that I'm really thankful for."
The insurance coverage provided by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Ski Team has been an absolute necessity, as the surgery alone was $250,000.
"I would have been on the streets by now," Wiles said of her medical bills. "It's something that you need, but thankfully we have a lot of resources."
Another thing Wiles has going for her is an injury clause which will allow her to maintain her world ranking while she works to get back into race shape.
Wiles still projects another year of rehab and, eventually, getting back into the snow to practice. The time for a 2018-19 return has come and gone, but that doesn't bother Wiles too much. After all, at only 26 years old, she has time on her side.
"Hopefully I can still get eight to 10 years left in my career, so there's no need to push it back, rush back," Wiles said. "I'm hopefully going to be ready to return to snow in mid-January or February. But it will be drills, sliding around, slowly easing into it while I'm doing a lot of therapy and strength training. Then, slowly progressing into more full length turns, and then eventually gates. Luckily, I have a lot of time on my side with not trying to race this year."
Throughout the process, Wiles was encouraged and cheered on by various other Olympic athletes, and has also received a bevy of support of from her home state.
"The only thing I would add is how grateful I am that I'm from Oregon," Wiles said. "I've had so much support from the community and it's inspiring, and makes me want to keep working hard to get back and represent this great state that we're from."