There was never a pop, any searing pain or signs of swelling in U.S. downhill ski racer Breezy Johnson’s right knee. She even took a few more runs after her recent crash while training in Chile.
That’s what made the diagnosis so difficult to process. Torn ACL. Season over.
Johnson, who finished seventh in the downhill at the Pyeongchang Olympics last February, had a list of goals this season. Among them: Earn her first World Cup win; a top-five finish at the world championships in Are, Sweden; maybe even share a podium with Lindsey Vonn during what could be her final season.
But after receiving the injury news, Johnson spent nearly an hour in the doctor’s office by herself — just thinking. The racer who grew up in Idaho doesn’t have a date for surgery just yet.
“There’s the emotional part of me where I’m like, ‘[Forget] it, I’m going to be fine. I’m going to put on my boots and just go,'” Johnson said in a phone interview. “But the rational thinking of my brain is like, ‘That’s a terrible idea. Don’t do that.’
“But it’s Lindsey’s last season. So it’s going to be really sad to not be able to race with her in her final season.”
Johnson was practicing her super-G turns on Sept. 3 at El Colorado in Chile when she hooked an edge on the side of a hill and awkwardly tumbled, landing on her face. She felt a twinge in her knee, but nothing more. There was no swelling.
“It’s almost like my body wanted to shield me from the news,” Johnson said.
Johnson was examined in Chile; the medical staff thought maybe a partial tear. After returning home to get more tests, doctors saw the tear on an MRI.
It’s the second big injury of her career. In March 2017, Johnson suffered a tibial plateau fracture in her left leg during a crash at the World Cup finals in Aspen, Colorado.
Johnson is part of the next wave of Americans following in the footsteps of racers such as Vonn. Johnson had five top-10 finishes on the World Cup circuit, including fourth in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, last February.
“If this was the last season of my career or an Olympic year, I might consider just skiing on it,” said Johnson, who’s walking around on the knee with no real pain. “It doesn’t seem that unstable. But at 22 years old, I don’t want to ruin my knee now. I know I’ll be fine long term and will be back and I will just have to keep working.
“But it’s just hard right now, watching your teammates go on without you.”