France's 'miracle on one leg'

Pierre Vaultier's snowboard gold at Sochi 2014 comes less than two months after tearing his ACL in his right knee.

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    Knee for speed: Vaultier won the final despite what should have been a season-ending injury in December [Reuters]
    Knee for speed: Vaultier won the final despite what should have been a season-ending injury in December [Reuters]

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic can justifiably claim to have two perfectly working lower limbs after scoring with both feet in Paris Saint-Germain's rout of Bayer Leverkusen, but the man being feted by the French public on Wednesday had to make his dreams come true with only one.

    'Miracle on one leg,' was the headline in the L'Équipe sports newspaper after snowboarder Pierre Vaultier won Winter Olympic gold after – in his words – "leaving one ligament in France".

    Vaultier, 26, has been a major force in World Cup snowboard cross events but unexpectedly crashed out of Vancouver 2010 in the quarter-finals.

    In the big events...I always had a lot of dread. I doubted my ability. I did a lot of work on my mentality in the past months and my injury maybe made it fall into place.

    Pierre Vaultier, Sochi 2014 gold medallist

    Then on December 21 last year, with another rare chance for Olympic glory approaching at Sochi, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. It's an injury that takes six to nine months to recover from. But miss the Olympics? Not a chance.

    "I'm the miracle to the power of 10," he told the paper, showing off his articulated knee brace after beating Nikolay Olyunin of Russia and American Alex Deibold in the six-man race.

    "Even in my most beautiful dreams, I never imagined this. I fought just to be here, not to win gold. I have a knee and a half!".

    Anybody who has ever snowboarded – or indeed, stood up – knows that knees are fairly important.

    And never more so that when hurtling over jumps and round corners at 50kph with the best competitors in the world inches from your rail.

    Yet unless you were a particular fan of the event or of Vaultier, you might have missed his achievement amid the 'Vaultier wins snowboard cross gold' headlines.

    "It demands respect," France teammate Paul-Henri De Le Rue, who finished fourth a month after he himself had suffered a triple fracture to his face and skull trauma, said.

    "His wife broke her leg at the start of the season, then he broke his knee, they have a baby...I said to myself, 'To prepare for the Winter Olympics like that? Good luck, guys.'"

    Vaultier, who is also a soldier, said that in hindsight he may have won gold because of rather than despite his injury.

    "In the big events – the World Championships or Olympic Games – I always had a lot of dread. I doubted my ability," Vaultier said.

    "I did a lot of work on my mentality in the past months and my injury maybe made it fall into place.

    "It came at just the right time to give me a new spirit.

    "After the diagnosis, it was lousy. There was probably no chance of coming here (to Sochi). But if the delay before the Olympics had been shorter, I probably couldn't have reached the right level. If too long, the pressure (on my knee) would have grown too much. But on the snow, I was perfectly relaxed."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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