Freestyle skiier Veronika Bauer's comeback, miracle—and disappointment

A moment in the media mixed zone

Veronika BauerOnce athletes finish their events, they make their way through the cattle chutes… er, sorry, the media mixed zone, to face reporters. And so begins a whole new contest: the scrum.

For those athletes who come into the games with high hopes, only to see them dashed, there is always the prerequisite “How do you feel?” question. It’s one that infuriates viewers watching their TVs at home—“How do you think she/he feels, you bloody morons?” But the intent, if not the execution, is honest. Many athletes devote years of their lives and make untold sacrifices to get this far. This moment, with the microphones shoved up in their faces, is often the final inglorious closing page of their Olympic stories.

For Veronika Bauer, a Toronto native and Canada’s sole entry in the freestyle ladies’ aerials competition, the story arc involved a remarkable comeback from multiple concussions over the last two years. During the last 13 months, Bauer has managed just four weeks of training leading up to the games. Yet despite having so much stacked against her Saturday afternoon on Cypress mountain, the 31-year-old skier finished the first of two preliminary jumps sitting comfortably in third place with a score of 94.47. People had used the word “miracle” to describe her comeback. The miracle looked like it was coming true. But when Bauer attempted her second jump, she failed to muster enough speed. As she landed, she fell backwards against the snow. The flub cost her dearly. Her total score of 160.46 put her fifteenth, and out of the running for Wednesday’s finals.

Eventually Bauer wound her way through the blue plastic barriers to the small contingent of Canadian reporters waiting for her. Often, it seems, it’s not the direct questions that evoke the raw emotion athletes are feeling at that moment. Sometimes it’s the innocuous ones. So it was with Bauer. After calmly fielding queries about her performance—she was “disappointed” but has enjoyed her time here at the Olympics—a local radio reporter simply asked Bauer what she planned to do during the rest of the games. She paused.

“I don’t know. I feel like I can’t even think straight. I can’t believe this has happened. If I would have done anything on that second jump, it would have been finals. I can’t believe it yet. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it when it sinks in.”

And basically, with that, the press attaché for the Canadian freestyle team put her hand on Bauer’s shoulder—the international signal to reporters that face time is over. And then Bauer turned and walked away.

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