After nearly a year, Cameron Alexander is ready for World Cup return in Lake Louise
Contributor: Ben Steiner
In late 2020, Cameron Alexander sat up in a French hospital to see his teammate, Brodie Seger sitting in a chair across the room. Both athletes had suffered severe injuries in their season-opening downhill in Val d’Isère, FRA. While Seger returned to the slopes within weeks, the journey back to snow has been more lengthy for Alexander.
After closing the 2019-20 season on a high with a career-best 10th place race in Kvitfjell, NOR, Alexander did not start a single race in 2020-21, crashing out of the season-opening Val d’Isère downhill on Dec. 13, 2020.
“I struggled in the training runs, I had made mistakes, and by the time I had pushed out of the gate on race day, I had a few more nerves than usual,” said the North Vancouver raised skier, remembering the race preparation. “About five turns in, I caught my edge, and I was on my back, and my knee was killing me. It was just a surprise. I didn’t really know what happened.”
From catching an edge, straddling a gate, and the tumble that followed, Alexander’s season came to a close before he had a chance to cross the finish line.
Within a short few minutes, things went from bad to worse for the Canadian ski team, as Seger caught an edge just ahead of the finishing line, tumbled and injured his shoulder. While race day staff helped Alexander into an ambulance, the Canadian staff ran between the ambulance and the timing flat.
While the two quickly made their way to the hospital and back to Canada, Seger found his way back onto snow last season. For Alexander, however, it has been nearly a year since he clicked his poles and lifted them over a World Cup start gate.
“I had surgery Dec. 28, and we started with some really basic stuff, just being able to move my knee again,” said Alexander on his recovery process. “The off snow process went well, and we have been managing it well since I’ve gotten back on snow.”
With the knee injury, there was never a plan that Alexander would return in 2020-21. He quickly shifted his focus towards the 2021-22 World Cup speed season, which gets underway on Nov. 26 in Lake Louise, Alta.
Although Alexander knew the focus, it did not make dealing with adversity any easier. “It was hard. I made a point of waking up for most of the races,” he said. “It was great to see the success that they had and that just motivated me more because I knew I could be there with them.”
Not only did the setback physically split Alexander from his teammates last season, the entire World Cup schedule also took place across the Atlantic, not giving the Canadians a chance to push out of the start gate on home soil.
While his teammates found success against the world’s best, Alexander trained and recovered at home, looking on with envy.
“I missed competition and just having skiing in my life,” said the 24-year-old. “It’s [skiing] been such a big part of my life for so long, and then all of the sudden, to not be able to ski for a year was tough.”
Having the upcoming season in mind for nearly a year has had benefits. With more time in the gym, he is stronger than he was two years ago, and the transition to snow has gone smoother than expected.
“Once we got back on snow, things started to come back a lot faster than I thought they would, and I think I’m skiing pretty well right now,” he said. “The intensity has not been as high, but I am happy where my skiing is now.”
When Alexander last crossed the finish line in March 2020 in Kvitfjell, NOR, he was just 1.19 seconds behind the leader. “It gave me a lot of confidence that I can perform at a really high level. I always thought I could do it, but that result made me believe so much more.”
Two weeks short of a calendar year since his injury in Val d’Isère, Alexander is set to kick out of the World Cup start gate in Lake Louise, where he made his World Cup debut in 2019. Still developing confidence and comfort, the Albertan slope is the perfect spot for the Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus to restart.
“I’ve had to be patient, that’s for sure,” said Alexander. “It will help with the confidence, and it’s just nice to be racing in Canada again, and I’m more motivated than ever to get back racing again.”