U.S. Ski Racer Nina O’Brien Suffers Another Devastating Leg Injury in Training

by Simon Naylor | Published: September 14th, 2023 |  Ski News

U.S. alpine skier Nina O'Brien fractured her left leg last week during preseason training in New Zealand, the same leg she severely broke less than a year ago at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The 25-year-old shared the unfortunate news in an Instagram post on Monday, writing "This one hurts, again. Something about life and lemons, right? I'm really sad to share that I left New Zealand after fracturing my leg. Ski racing, I love you but wow you can be brutal. I was having the best camp, and just want to get back to those moments. So I guess we'll have to try this thing again. At least this isn't my first rodeo."

Nina O’Brien

We are reader supported. We may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

A Repeat Injury With An Uncertain Timeline

This is the second time O'Brien will go through surgery and recovery for the same leg. At the 2022 Olympics, she suffered a compound fracture of her left tibia and fibula during the giant slalom event. She crashed right before the finish line while she was in sixth place, losing her balance at top speed. The scene was gruesome, with her tibia breaking through the skin in what's known as an open fracture. O'Brien underwent immediate surgery in China followed by multiple procedures back in the U.S. It was a long road to recovery, but she made an impressive comeback, capping off last season as a world champion in the team parallel slalom event at the 2023 World Championships.

Now O'Brien faces many months of rehab again, as she had surgery on Tuesday to repair her broken leg. While she continues to have a positive attitude, this is undoubtedly a major setback. With the first World Cup race just over a month away on October 28, O'Brien will not be able to compete this upcoming season. The timeline for her return is uncertain.

A Key Member of the U.S. Tech Team

The fracture comes at an inopportune time for O'Brien, who has been a stalwart member of the U.S. women's World Cup tech team. She has consistently scored World Cup points in her specialty events of giant slalom and parallel slalom. Her career-best World Cup finish is 9th in the 2020 giant slalom race in Sestriere, Italy. Last season, O'Brien notched her first top-10 finish since her initial injury, placing 10th at the giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy.

Beyond her individual results, O'Brien has been a key contributor to the U.S. squad. The injury comes right when O'Brien seems to be hitting her stride again. She ended last season qualifying for the World Cup finals giant slalom, securing 23rd place on the start list rankings.

An Outpouring of Support From Teammates

News of O'Brien's injury has elicited an outpouring of encouragement from teammates, coaches, and fans. Her Instagram post received over 1,500 comments wishing her a smooth recovery.

The U.S. Ski Team shared in an official statement, "Nina has already overcome so much and climbed back to succeed through her characteristic grit and determination. We will be with her every step of the way." While this second serious injury is undoubtedly discouraging, O'Brien clearly has a strong network around her.

Working Her Way Back From A Shattered Olympic Dream

O'Brien's road to recovery from her initial broken leg at the 2022 Olympics was remarkable. After the severe compound fracture and ensuing surgeries, she could barely walk for three months. At her initial doctor's appointment back in the U.S., they told her skiing competitively again would be nearly impossible.

But O'Brien was determined to prove the doctors wrong. Through extensive rehab and training, she steadily regained her strength and skills. She rejoined the U.S. team for on-snow training in August 2022 and was skiing gates by September. Her first race back was a NorAm Cup event in December 2022 where she shocked with a 7th place finish in just her third day back on the gates.

While her comeback didn't follow a perfect linear trajectory, O'Brien continued to make strides. She notched her first World Cup points of the season in January. She steadily gained confidence in her skiing, culminating in that gold medal performance in the team's parallel slalom at the World Championships. While the Beijing Olympics didn't go as planned, O'Brien proved she has the perseverance of a champion.

A Long Road Ahead

Unfortunately for O'Brien, she is now facing a remarkably similar situation with another bad break to the same leg. It's unclear if she will be able to return to competition as quickly this time. Some early comments from U.S. Ski Team staff indicate she may miss not just this coming season, but potentially part of the following one as well.

O'Brien will likely go through the gamut of emotions - anger, sadness, frustration. But ultimately her gritty determination will power her through the arduous road. Fans are hopeful her competitive fire will shine again.

Key Takeaways

  • Nina O'Brien fractured her left leg again during preseason training in New Zealand - the same leg she broke at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
  • She will miss the entire upcoming World Cup season as she recovers from surgery.
  • This is a major setback for O'Brien who was coming off a successful 2022-23 season where she regained her form.
  • O'Brien has been a consistent contributor to the U.S. women's tech team.
  • She faces many months of rehab again, similar to her recovery from the initial broken leg.
  • O'Brien has received an outpouring of encouragement from teammates, coaches, and fans.
  • Despite the long road ahead, O'Brien has already shown she has the determination and grit to overcome adversity.