Every inch, turn, and millisecond matters, and if one thing slips
“Skiing with not very much A.C.L. left — it’s pretty hard-core,” said Olympic alpine ski racer, Lindsay Vonn after tearing her A.C.L twice, according to the Associated Press article.
Castleton University skier Hans Poelmann can also relate.
It all happened last year on Jan. 25, 2018 –– mid-run.
Poelmann was carving down the mountain, clinking his fluorescent green poles into the gates on every turn. It comes natural for him, he has done this hundreds of times. But that day, luck was not on his side.
He had “come around a turn with the back of the skis loaded” when suddenly in a blink of an eye he had landed on his back with his “skis pointing straight in the air, sliding head first,” said Poelmann.
All he could see were the tops on the snowy tree branches, and a pearly white sky.
“The tip of my ski pulled out and popped my knee,” Poelmann said, cringing at the thought of the pain.
“I knew instantly something was wrong. I wasn’t sure if it was torn or what…but I still managed to ski down the rest of the mountain,” Poelmann said confidently.
It didn’t take him much time to realize he had torn his A.C.L.
A torn A.C.L often happens when one “suddenly stops, jumping or changes in direction. Many people say they hear or feel a “pop” in the knee when an ACL injury occurs,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
This is painful enough for anyone, but for a skier, it might just be the worst news.
“Before it happened, I always said if I tore my A.C.L, I would never ski race again,” Poelmann said.
But the thought of never ski racing again was unimaginable.
Poelmann practically grew up on the slopes.
“I started when I was 4 years old, and I started racing when I was pretty young too, probably 8, 9, 10 – somewhere around there,” Poelmann said.
His home mountain where he first learned to ski was Mount Peter, located just east of where he’s from, Warwick, New York.
He now lives at what is known as “Factory.” He shares the space with three other roommates, two of whom are also on the ski team. Their house is filled with random assorted couches that all come to surround a TV – usually playing ESPN, with jerseys pinned to the wall adjacent to it.
Poelmann is a dedicated skier, with loyal ties to his Castleton ski family. Prior to Castleton, Poelmann took a post-graduate year and skied at Windham Mountain, New York.
Although Killington is Castleton’s home mountain for alpine skiing, Poelmann has skied all over.
He went to Chile in 2014 to ski with his U-18 team, alongside junior women’s alpine teammate, Kylie Mackie.
Mackie has a close friendship with Hans because she grew up skiing with him.
“It was frustrating at times when we were younger, but it was always a lot of fun,” Mackie said, referring to his humor and unique personality.
Many people may recognize Poelmann by his sleek and shiny gray Mercedes Benz that he proudly drives. He can usually be found at parties behind the DJ booth, hitting every beat drop. This is especially true when he was recovering and had to be sitting at most times.
Poelmann enjoys getting to ski across the globe because he likes every chance he can get to ski, especially when a season is over and he wants to continue to practice.
“You can at least not lose everything. I get to pick up where I left off, and make the next season easier to transition into,” he explained.
Poelmann is extremely dedicated to making himself a better skier every day. Nate Bedell, a junior on the Castleton Alpine Ski team said “a lot of people don’t know that he has paid for all of his ski trips by himself, by working at a restaurant.”
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Poelmann has skied in slalom and giant slalom events.
Castleton alpine ski coach Chris Eder has been with Poelmann through each and every obstacle.
“During his freshman year, Hans struggled to finish two clean and solid runs on race day. Last year, we saw signs of him getting past that hump while watching him compete in local USSA (United States Ski Association) races early in the season. He had some great finishes in those races prior to his A.C.L. injury. We are hoping to see him continue where he left off last season. He is determined come back strong and do well on the slopes,” said Eder.
He had a scheduled A.C.L. appointment at Rutland Regional Hospital, in Rutland Vermont for March 16.
Two months after the incident, most of his college friends were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by guzzling down green Guinness beers.
For Hans, it was drinking Gatorade in a hospital bed recovering from surgery a day prior.
“I couldn’t walk for two weeks after, which was the worst part,” Poelmann said.
Poelmann was counting down the days until his skies could finally touch snow again.
October 19, 2018 was the day. Eight months and 24 days later, Poelmann was surely missing the powder.
When asked how his first day was back on the slopes he smiled and said simply, “It was really good, actually.”
His teammates are all excited to see him on the slopes again, this time even stronger than ever before.
“I think he will have a good ski year. He has a new focus I’ve never seen before and has been working harder than he has in the past by going to the gym every day and is ahead of schedule for his recovery,” said Bedell
Eder is looking forward to Poelmann’s upcoming season and performance.
“Hans has adjusted well so far after his surgery and rehab. He has been on the slopes free skiing and getting back into the swing of things. His knee has been feeling good, so we are hopeful that this translates to his skiing in gate training and race day. The biggest challenge many skiers face after a knee injury and/or surgery is regaining confidence,” said Eder.
Poelmann’s goals for this upcoming 2019 ski season are a bit different than the past. He is looking to improve a little each day, to get better in the long run.
“It typically takes skiers a few days of gate training and a race or two to get one’s confidence back. I believe his confidence is back already just from all the work he has put in during team workouts, workout on his own, and his time on the slopes already this season,” said Eder.
Eder is amazed by Poelmanns’ speedy recovery.
“I am at a point where I almost forget that Hans is coming off of a major knee surgery!” he said.
Poelmann goals are also a little different these days.
“Goals for skiing used to be getting results, but now it’s just to get better every day,” Poelmann said.
“If you get better every day, you’ll get better in the long run,” advised Poelmann.