Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (29) picks up his biggest triumphs in one year after last year’s season had a bad end.
On January 16 last year, Kilde screamed when his knee twisted during training in Austria. It was all filmed when the alpinist disappeared in the snowstorm at high speed down the hill. The result was a smoked cruciate ligament in the right knee and ruined season.
On Friday, he stood on top of the podium in the small alpine village of Wengen. The victory in the downhill race in the legendary route in Switzerland is not only his most prestigious single victory in his career. It was also the season’s fifth victory.
It happened after an injury that usually has a rehabilitation period of eight to nine months.
– I have not been near this in previous seasons. It is a dream come true. I had never thought that this would happen after the injury last year, says Kilde to Aftenposten.
He has heard others say that you come back stronger, but he has not fully believed it. Now he understands what is meant by the term.
– They say that it takes nine months before you can compete, but that the knee takes a year to return to normal. Next week it’s been a year since I was injured. The body is raw, says Kilde.
Three similar fates
The way Kilde has returned to its rawest level ever, has great similarities with how Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud managed the same.
The three athletes have all picked up some of their greatest triumphs after ending up in hospitals and crutches.
- Kjetil Jansrud only got to run 30 seconds of the WC in February 2013. Then the cruciate ligament broke in the Super G race in Schladming. The season was over. But a year later, Jansrud won the Olympic gold in Super G.
- Aksel Lund Svindal also broke the cruciate ligament in 2016 when he fell badly in Kitzbühel. The complicated injury ruined the rest of the season. He had to interrupt the season after several podium places when the knee did not work well enough. But in 2018, he still took the Olympic gold downhill.
How is it possible to go from these knee injuries to their best level?
Kilde himself believes that there are several reasons why he has never been better than after he has trained up after the injury.
- He knows the muscles better.
- Is better at dealing with the forces and the body
- Has better balance
- Become more aware of the body’s small movements
Earlier in his career, Kilde has also seen how teammates like Svindal and Jansrud have returned to their rawest level.
– I thought they were unique and that it was difficult to achieve it yourself, says Kilde.
Kjetil Jansrud points out that the mental and not just the physical play an important role when the athletes return after injuries in alpine skiing. One should rely on the knee after a cruciate ligament injury and then perform with the same knee.
– It’s a mix of everything. It is completely beyond what Alexander has managed. It is more than one could hope for, says Jansrud.
Now he has to rebuild himself after a new knee injury. Jansrud emphasizes that the support system was also absolutely crucial when he returned after an injury in 2013.
At the same time, he believes that several things come into play, including raw training culture, the environment in the team and that the athletes are independent.
– Aleksander has put in a formidable job. I have followed and seen what he has done, He is enormously dedicated and an insanely good alpinist. It’s just a matter of taking off your hat, says Jansrud.
Kjetil Jansrud believes that Kilde has now taken the step up to become the world’s best alpinist and consolidated the World Cup winner overall in 2020.
– He has the opportunity to step in among the legends. And that happens right after the cruciate ligament injury, says Jansrud.
Remote Controlled Source
The Alpine national team’s doctor, Marc Jacob Strauss, was central when Kilde was to build up after the injury a year ago. He says that they had to remotely control part of the rehabilitation, as Kilde lives in Innsbruck.
Svindal also lived in Austria when he rebuilt after his injury in 2016.
– It has been more challenging for us. It was an account of how many days he could be in Norway. But it was good communication, says Strauss.
Svindal’s injury was more complicated than Kildes’. But Strauss points out that the damaged area will never be the same again after such an injury as Kilde received. He says that the athletes lose muscle, and that the level must be rebuilt.
– But the advantage is that the athletes get a break from many years with a lot of training. They first get a good recovery phase. Then a build-up begins from scratch. You get time to train the other things that you have not trained so much, says Strauss.
He says that the body also has an ability to remember both movements and physical level. The very best have also been at a sky-high level before. Kilde is also known for his solid body.
– Alexander is unique. He has an enormous physical potential that only a few have, says Strauss.