By Gus Kenworthy’s own admission, the last few months have not been great preparation for the Winter Olympics.
Having switched competitive allegiance from the United States to GB Snowsport, the Sochi 2014 freestyle skiing silver medallist is one of Team GB’s best hopes for a medal at Beijing 2022.
The 30-year-old moves his build-up to another level in Copper Mountain this week, for his first World Cup of the season - a halfpipe competition in Colorado. But Kenworthy is not putting pressure on the event, having been hit by a number of setbacks.
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“I just got back from Europe, I was over there for a month. I was in Switzerland and Austria for two different training camps, but ended up not being particularly productive,” he told Eurosport.
“I knocked myself out on day four, and I've had a couple of concussions and brain injuries in the last few years, so there was quite strict protocol in terms of how I was able to get cleared to ski again.
I sat out for two weeks, and then got cleared to ski... but two days after that, I got a breakthrough case of Covid, despite being fully vaccinated, and so I had to self-isolate in a hotel room for a week.
“I was over there for a month and I skied, like four days, it was a total waste. But I am feeling pretty good despite that.
“One thing that's nice, I don't have to worry too much about qualifying (for Beijing), I've got my spot locked in. I can just focus on building some confidence and landing at this first World Cup, and then sort of work it from there. The Games are really close, but they're also far enough away that I have a little bit of time to build up some steam."
The Winter Olympics will be Kenworthy’s final competitive event before he retires from the sport to focus on other things - like building on his acting career, having made his breakthrough in American Horror Story. He has spoken previously about whether he really wanted to continue after missing out on a medal at Pyeongchang 2018, and he admits those thoughts have surfaced again recently - before they were put to the back of his mind.
“One of my best friends in the sport and someone I used to live with and travel with - Bobby Brown - had a bad crash, broke his back and had to have emergency surgery and it was really scary.
“I was kind of like, what am I even doing? I'm pretty old for this. It really hit me hard. I was scared for him and worried and then it made me really question myself and what I was doing. That was the headspace that I was in heading into these two training camps.
While I was there, those first few days, I was trying to really be in the moment and stay grounded and kind of had the realisation that I actually was in the right place and doing what I was supposed to be doing and I felt good about that.
“Despite the fact that I had this crash and had a rough month, I do very much feel like I'm on the right path and I'm excited for the Games.”
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