On the way to achieving her dreams, a severe injury set back her goals of competing in the 2010 Olympics. Now, after four years of recovery, she’s set her boots back into the bindings of her snowboard and her eyes once again on the goal of representing Canada in boardercross.
“I’ve missed the culture, I’ve missed the lifestyle, the competition. I love the sport, I love boardercross, so it’s been really fulfilling to be back,” said Jesse McDonald.
Having competed in three boardercross races this year, McDonald is showing a strong return having placed first in two races at Red Mountain and second at a race at Big White.
McDonald — who grew up in Nakusp — says she’s been taking it easy so far this season by competing in smaller provincial level events, but will head to nationals next month, which will give her more accurate feedback as to where she stands in the field.
While her snowboarding career is starting to get back on track it’s been a difficult journey for McDonald.
“I started doing boardercross when I was 11-years-old, but when I was 18 I had a really bad injury,” she said.
“We were in Austria training when it happened. Originally it was a torn ACL, a really common injury, so back in 2008 when I did that I kind of thought it would be a quick recovery, but then it was a torn meniscus and then I was diagnosed with chronic pain. Ever since then I’ve been diligently doing physiotherapy and seeing specialists all over the country and four years later I’m just getting back.”
At the time she was on the BC team, but had competed internationally and even raced a World Cup.
“That was back when they had Project 2010 and I was targeted for the Olympics and was getting tons of funding. It was awesome, I was right in the prime of my snowboarding career… but then the injury happened.”
“It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had happen to me,” said McDonald.
In hindsight, she says that there were also positive outcomes from her injury.
“It made me realize that it’s 100 per cent what I want to do, what I want to train for. I’m so eager to get back and I’ve got all this new motivation and it’s definitely made me love the sport.”
“I was 18 when I had my injury, I’m 21 now and in those years anyone’s going to grow, but I’ve really overcome a lot,” she said, adding that to do so, she’s had help along the way.
“I was referred to a physiotherapist here in Nelson, Damien Moroney. He’s been with me ever since day one, my coach as well, Chris Nakonechny, and my family.”
McDonald says that after she competes at nationals next month she’ll head to South America for more training and fitness camps.
“It’s cool because when we’re training for boardercross we don’t just go on a track, we’ll go in the park in Whistler and hit jumps or we’ll go hit drops and cliffs, we’ll do groomers, practice carving, ride rollers… boardercross covers every single aspect of the sport,” said McDonald.
A veteran boardercross Olympian whose example has inspired McDonald is that of Maelle Ricker.
“She’s a veteran, she won gold in the 2010 Olympics, she’s had numerous knee surgeries and she’s definitely someone I look up to,” said McDonald.
Despite having missed her first chance, McDonald still has her eyes set on one day competing in the Olympics.
“When I was younger my motivation was always 2010 Olympics, that was where I saw myself. Missing that was really tough, so I would definitely love to be in Russia 2014, that’s for sure what I’m working towards — Is it realistic, I’m not sure at this point.”
“But it’s definitely awesome to be back and winning races.”