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Estonian skiing star Kelly Sildaru looking forward to return after injury

Kelly Sildaru.
Kelly Sildaru. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonian freestyle skiing star Kelly Sildaru, who took bronze at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, says she is recovering well from the serious knee injury she suffered last year and cannot wait to get back out on the snow. Sildaru was speaking on ERR's winter sports show alongside double Olympic cross-country skiing champion Kristina Šmigun-Vähi.

"I haven't been able to return to the snow since I injured my knee. I've been in rehab for a long time. Now the time has finally come for me to start gradually getting back out on the snow again. A knee orthosis has been ordered and now I'm waiting until it's ready, so I can go skiing again, which I'm really looking forward to," Sildaru told ERR on Sunday.

"There have been two World Championships in freestyle skiing. The start of my racing season has been very different, sometimes it starts in August, sometimes in November. My season is a bit longer, I start training on snow in August or September and the season ends at the beginning of May, when I have my last outdoor [training] camp," said Sildaru.

Whether the six-time X-Games gold medalist will be able to compete this season, she could not yet say. "That remains to be seen, my biggest goal is to recover fully to minimize the risk of picking up another injury. It will mostly become clear when I go out on the snow again for the first time: how my knee stands up to it and what happens then. It's hard to make long term plans at the moment. I just have to take it one day at a time and keep monitoring it."

Sildaru was joined on the show by Kristina Šmigun-Vähi, who became Estonia's most successful female cross-country skier, after winning two gold medals at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

Šmigun-Vähi pointed out that while officially season only runs from November to March, the rest of the year and all the preparation done "behind the scenes" is tough, but crucial for success.

"Every time the season started, I was in a good place. With a lot of training, the competitions turned out great. There were so many competitions, things kept moving all the time and I wanted to take part in the competitions. Having a proper training routine was very important," she said.

"In my case, it's more about the feeling," said Sildaru. "I can probably do race breaks on a good day or a bad day, in good shape or bad shape. It's more like I can tell when I'm feeling good or vice versa. Time has also shown that the more you practice a certain thing, the more confident you get with that particular trick."

Šmigun-Vähi said that in the build up to her successful Olympic campaign in 2006, she had been insulated inside her own world.

"I didn't read any magazines and no one in our family talked about the Olympics to keep the pressure off. You can ruin your own performance if you overthink or can't handle your emotions," she said.

"I also tried not to read the news so as not to feel the pressure or the expectations so much, but inevitably it still reached me," Sildaru said, describing her own experience.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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