Eleven months ago Mark McMorris was fighting for his life after breaking 17 bones and suffering a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen in a snowboarding accident. On Sunday he won Olympic bronze.
The 24-year-old staked an early claim for the most inspirational story at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in the snowboard slopestyle, sealing third behind compatriot Max Parrot, in silver, and Amercian teenage gold medallist Red Gerard.
McMorris’s remarkable feat after cheating death did not go unnoticed by US ski “queen” Lindsey Vonn, who tweeted a split photo, one half of the Canadian in a hospital bed with numerous tubes attached to him and the other showing him smiling and a superimposed bronze medal.
“This is amazing!” Vonn tweeted to her 987,000 followers.
Talking after winning bronze, McMorris reflected on his journey from near-death to worldwide headline maker.
“I don’t want to think too much about the past today, but I appreciate the fact I’m here on my snowboard,” he said.
“Whatever the outcome was today, just me being pumped on being able to ride a snowboard.
“I think a lot of time I need to pinch myself because now I feel so good and comfortable on my board, but eight months ago I probably didn’t think I was going to be able to snowboard at this level ever again.
“It’s all good from my standpoint. I’m just lucky to be here.”
McMorris’s career was very much on the upwards trajectory. He had won bronze at Sochi 2014 and boasted numerous Winter X Games golds.
But in March 2017, McMorris, raised on the flatlands of the Canadian province Saskatchewan, sustained multiple injuries in a snowboarding accident when he hit a tree.
His multiple fractures included to his jaw, left arm, pelvis and ribs and he was placed in a medically induce coma.
McMorris survived and in his comeback to competition, a big air World Cup in Beijing in November 2017, he triumphed.
After all that, he said Sunday that bronze felt like winning gold.
“Very much so, it is really cool that I can snowboard again,” he said.
“It’s not easy. The last two years I haven’t snowboarded that much. I broke my femur and had to take six, seven months off. Then I broke it all and had to take seven months off again.”
McMorris, who could have another chapter in his story when he goes in the big air competition in Pyeongchang, added: “I’ve been really stuck in the contest scene for a while, or on a death bed, so I’m pretty stoked.
“It does feel like a win.”