Bruises are scattered about his face and neck. His body moves slowly as he turns to the window to welcome pelts of snow. While the Castleton skiers continue to dominate competitions each weekend, one of their own is secluded in a hospital bed following a freak accident on the slopes.
Shoichiro Watanabe, a sophomore from Tokyo, Japan, was skiing with the team during a free run in Killington when he slid off the trail and landed in the woods. In serious pain from the fall, he remained stuck in the woods until teammates arrived and helped him get out.
“I have trouble getting the crash out of my head,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my teammates helping me out, who knows where I would be right now.”
Some of the injuries he suffered from the crash include skull and sinus fractures, facial lacerations and ligament strains in the neck.
The incident left the Spartan skiers and Head Coach Chris Eder worried for Watanabe’s well-being.
“It was the scariest eight or nine hours I’ve had in my eight years,” Eder said of the accident. “When I first saw him in the hospital, he only had subtle movements.”
Members of the ski team visit Watanabe frequently, and teammate Justin Schwartz keeps him updated on the results of each race.
An ocean away from home, Watanabe is dealing with more than just the challenge of recovering.
Due to the process of rehabilitation, Watanabe has missed the first two weeks of school and is being prevented from what he loves to do – ski. He will remain in the hospital for at least another month after a minor setback, according to Eder.
The various injuries Watanabe sustained will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the ski season, but he is thankful that nothing worse had occurred.
“It is very disappointing, but I am lucky to still have my arms and legs,” he said.
Watanabe’s injury has affected more than just his team and coach, but also has opposing skiers wishing him the best.
“Other teams have been asking about him,” Eder said. “It does not surprise me because Shou is such a nice kid and really cares about people. Now others are starting to return the favor.”
His parents recently came all the way from Tokyo to visit him at the hospital, which originally had him very nervous.
“At first, I didn’t want my parents to know because it would worry them,” Watanabe said. “Coach [Eder] had to convince me to tell them what happened, and they were very anxious to see me.”
His lone finish of the year was 24th in the season-opening giant slalom race in Sugarloaf, Maine.