Canby alumna Jackie Wiles out of 2018 Winter Games
Former Canby Cougar and Aurora, Oregon native Jackie Wiles was riding high heading into February, but tragedy was just around the corner.
The 25-year old had competed in Austria and Italy earlier this year, placing third in the ladies downhill race behind fellow United States Olympian Lindsey Vonn and Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather. Wiles had also secured a spot on the U.S. team in the downhill race event, and could have possibly competed in the super giant slalom, more commonly known as super-G, and alpine combined events as well.
All of that was gone in an instant.
On Feb. 3, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Wiles was competing in the downhill event when a miscalculation caused her to overcorrect and the damage was done.
"About halfway down the downhill track you have this really big left footer that has a roll and a fall away into a compression," Wiles explained. "I came into it a little too direct and didn't get my timing right, so I got pushed really far off the bump. It was looking like I was going to miss the next gate, but I was trying to attack and not give up, and keep going. The way that I had made it around the next gate, I got really compressed and twisted, and I had a ton of force that went right onto my left leg."
"I broke my fibula, tore my ACL, MCL, meniscus, part of my LCL, and had a lingering patella tear from last year that I need to get fixed as well," Wiles added.
The physical damage taken is the worst injury Wiles has experienced. The American was lifted off the slope and taken to the hospital immediately, and two days later she had returned stateside. Wiles left for Vail, Colorado to have surgery to repair the damage, where she will be staying at teammate Vonn's residence during the Olympic games.
For Wiles, Vonn has been a source of inspiration and someone to look to in these tough times.
"Lindsey has been a great friend, a teammate, and role model of mine," Wiles said. "I look up to her a lot. She has gone through a lot of injuries and really been through the ringer. (Because of that) she's helped me out quite a bit with helping decide what to do moving forward, and how to approach this whole thing."
Even with the outpouring of love and support that Wiles has received from her family and fans, it is still hard to watch her teammates go out and compete with the best in the world. After all, it was only two weeks ago when Wiles was still scheduled to compete alongside them.
"It was quite a bit of a blow the first couple days coming to grasp what happened, and trying to figure out what went wrong, and understanding the situation," Wiles said. "The last four years I've always had this in the back of my mind: I was starting to peak, build, I'd already made the Olympic team, and I had my sights on Korea. It was really hard leaving to fly home because my whole team was flying to Korea, and I had to fly back home."
Despite the circumstances of her injury, Wiles is searching for positives and silver linings in this bleak situation, and there are some to be found. It will be near the beginning of December when she gets back to racing, and the Canby alumna has her eyes set on events to come back to and conquer.
"Next year we'll have world championships in Åre, Sweden, so I'm really looking forward to that," Wiles said. "That's something to strive for. Then, in 2021 we'll have world champs in Cortina, Italy, and then I'm looking forward to Beijing in 2022 as well. There's still a lot of racing, I have a lot of opportunities."
Wiles is also an athlete ambassador for the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, an organization founded by her friend and teammate. Wiles received funding in the past from the Foundation, and is helping to give back to young women who are in a similar position.
"The Lindsey Vonn Foundation was established a couple years ago to inspire and motivate young women," Wiles said. "It's largely based out of Vail, Colorado, and she helps the community, and puts on a lot of events for young kids. She fundraises a lot of money to help young girls that need help funding, and she tries to give back and put on events. She tries to be there with young girls, inspire them, and tries to give back to the community as much as possible, and to young women in sports in general."
If people want to make a donation to Vonn's organization, they should go to lindseyvonnfounation.org.