When Whistler’s Mercedes Nicoll took her qualifying runs in the women’s halfpipe at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Wednesday, something seemed a little bit off.
Although the deteriorating conditions in the pipe were slowing things down, she still didn’t appear to have the amplitude we’ve seen from her in the past, nor the confidence she rode with when reaching the women’s final and posting a sixth-place finish in 2010.
And after slipping up on the last hit of her second run, effectively ending her Olympics, the 30-year-old was in obvious pain.
It all made a little more sense once we got to see this:
The video was taken during the practice session as Nicoll was preparing for Wednesday's second heat. After a fall like that, just minutes before her qualifying heat was about to begin, it’s remarkable that Nicoll was even able to compete. She wasn’t the only victim of the second-heat warm-ups, as 2013 world champion Arielle Gold of the U.S. was also injured in the practice session and withdrew.
In an email from Sochi, Nicoll described what it was like to compete after such a brutal crash.
“Pratice took it out of me big time,” she said. “I had to race back up to even see if I could ride the pipe. I couldn’t walk. I had time after the fall to take another practice run (of) straight airs, and it hurt like hell.
“But the Games are only every four years. I knew I had to at least try.”
Nicoll said she couldn’t even click into her bindings without assistance after the fall and couldn’t bear any weight on her right leg. After taking a “safe and mellow” first run, she said she tried to go a little bigger on the second attempt.
“I went for it, pushed hard, then popped a little too much on my last hit and fell on my hip again,” said Nicoll, who’s not looking forward to the several days of cold-tub therapy in her future.
“Let’s just say walking sucks right now.”
Good thing Crispin Lipscomb has been able to help out with that:
To have an Olympic journey end like that, with an injury just moments before competition, would be understandably devastating to any athlete. But Nicoll was spotted back out at Rosa Khutor cheering on her Canadian teammates while on crutches, and with the smile on her face that we’ve always been used to seeing.
The Canadian halfpipe team may have come up a little short of its goals (although Katie Tsuyuki’s 13th-place finish was definitely something to be proud of, both for her and Lipscomb, her coach), but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the riders from enjoying the whole Olympic experience. Here they are cheering on the men's hockey team against Norway on Thursday: