Ski ace TJ on the mend
Norfolk's top skier is on the mend and determined to make up for lost time.TJ Baldwin, from Tharston, was skiing like a man on a mission towards the end of 2008, winning all six British under-18 titles and reaching world number 15 for his age group in downhill and super-G.
Norfolk's top skier is on the mend and determined to make up for lost time.
TJ Baldwin, from Tharston, was skiing like a man on a mission towards the end of 2008, winning all six British under-18 titles and reaching world number 15 for his age group in downhill and super-G.
But injury ended his year prematurely after he suffered an innocuous crash in training little over a month ago, and only hours before leaving to compete in his first two downhill races at the Europa Cup in Reiteralm, Austria.
The 18-year-old tore the meniscus cartilage in his right knee, leaving him needing surgery and six weeks of rehabilitation before he could even contemplate getting back on his skis.
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Now Baldwin is approaching the end of his recovery and he is ready to get back to what he does best - flying down snow capped mountains at up to 70mph.
'The knee is on the mend; I should hopefully be back on skis in two to three weeks, three weeks at the most if the rehab goes to plan,' said the former Long Stratton High School pupil. 'I had surgery on it three weeks ago in Austria by a surgeon we got recommended and he was really good. It wasn't a big operation, it was just an hour to sweep off a bit of cartilage.
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'It's a very common injury in skiing, the meniscus in your ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). It hurts when you fall at it will generally be on your knee.'
Being out of action is a new sensation for Baldwin, who had managed to stay injury free during his career - excluding an elbow injury he suffered on a dry ski slope as a child.
'It's my first injury that has really made me have to have time off skies,' said Baldwin. 'It's frustrating but there's nothing you can do about it, so you just have to go with it, do the rehab, focus on getting better and then when you do get back on skis, just try and catch up on what you missed out on.'
As for missing out on the Europa Cup at the last minute, Baldwin has not let it affect him. His attention is on what happens when he is given the all clear to ski again, hopefully in a few days' time.
'It wasn't too frustrating, honestly,' he added of his Europa Cup disappointment. 'It is pointless getting worked up about it, so I try not to worry about it. Sometimes it's good to have a bit of time out, refocus, analyse your goals. Then you really want it and you're hungry for it when you get back on the skis.
'When I hopefully should be back, I only have three or four weeks before the World Junior Championships and I've still got to qualify for them, so I have got to really put the hammer down and get on the gas.'
The junior championships will be held in Germany at the end of next month and if he does qualify, Baldwin will be in with a chance of beating British skiing's previous best - David Cook's 20th finish in the downhill 15 years ago. The norm for Great Britain is somewhere between 40th and 60th - Baldwin's world ranking in his peer group has been as high as 15.
But first he has to qualify, and that will mean reaching the necessary mark for two events to make the championships.
'I'm confident of reaching them,' grinned Baldwin. 'It's not too hard. The international points that I ski to at the moment are the benchmarks, and I've obviously improved over the summer. So if I ski to how I had been skiing in training and races, I should be fine.
'I don't see the break will be a problem. I was skiing well before I had my injury, so it'll take just a couple of days of free skiing to get back in the swing and get the feeling back, and then I should be fine.'
The full-time skier is based with the British team at their Olympic base in Lofer, Austria , and he is about to start a level three diploma in personal training with Open College. But Baldwin's ultimate aims still revolved around his skiing future.
'The first goal is to qualify for the world juniors and then, if I'm skiing well, I'd like to come top 10 at the world juniors in the super-G, which is my strongest event,' said Baldwin. 'After that it's just to ski in a few more Europa Cup races, because I've only been able to do one this year because of my injury, so I want to ski in a couple more of them and just put some good performances down.
'I'm happy with the way things are progressing. I would like to have maybe progressed a bit quicker, so I could try to go to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
'At the moment that is still quite a big jump from where I am, but I'm still on track to get to the 2014 Sochi Olympics.'