LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — Ski racer Manuel Osborne-Paradis is patient with his reconstructed leg because science tells him he must be.
A year and a week after his catastrophic crash in Lake Louise, Alta., Osborne will be back at the mountain resort Saturday supporting his Canadian teammates in the season-opening men’s World Cup downhill.
The earliest the 35-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C., expects he could race alongside them at a World Cup will be 2020 in Lake Louise.
That would be a full two years after shattering his tibia and fibula tumbling into the safety nets halfway down the first training run of the 2018-19 season.
Osborne-Paradis underwent several surgeries over the course of 12 days. Plates, 13 screws and bone cement now hold his lower leg together.
He’s dipping his toe back into the ski-racing brotherhood this week.
After undergoing bone scans Wednesday, he chatted with racers from other countries at the hotel housing all the teams.
“Definitely nostalgic being back here,” Osborne-Paradis observed. ”It’s race week. I feel like it’s part of the process coming here and reliving it.”
The last Canadian man to stand on the podium in Lake Louise with a downhill silver in 2014 will analyze his scans with team doctor Stephen French.
The bronze medallist in super-G at the 2017 world championship and winner of a career 11 World Cup medals wants to compete in a fifth Olympic Games in 2022 in Beijing.
So Osborne-Paradis can’t afford another setback like the one he had earlier this year. He broke the majority of the screws while training at the gym.
“Fingers crossed, but I think we’re being quite safe this time,” he said. “Just making sure we do it right because we only have time to do it once.”
Undergoing SPECT scans has given him what he feels is more detailed information than X-rays.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a SPECT scan is “is a type of nuclear imaging test, which means it uses a radioactive substance and a special camera to create 3-D pictures.”
“The last go-around, my X-rays looked perfect, like I could return to activities quite early,” Osborne-Paradis explained.
“We wanted to try out this new scan. As soon as we scanned my leg, it was bright red. It showed there was a ton of blood flow still going on in my leg.
“Just going off X-rays, I would have been on a more aggressive timeline.
“We’re taking it easier and longer because we have this new technology that’s saying ‘hey listen, your bone isn’t actually healed so don’t go out and re-break it right away.’”
Broderick Thompson of Whistler, B.C., also remains sidelined rehabilitating a knee injury suffered in pre-Louise training at Nakiska Ski Resort last year.
Host Canada can enter six racers in Saturday’s downhill and another six in Sunday’s super-G.
Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., Vancouver’s Sam Mulligan, North Vancouver’s Brodie Seger and Cameron Alexander, Toronto’s Jack Crawford, Jeff Read of Canmore, Alta., and Ottawa’s Dustin Cook are jockeying for those starts in training runs.
Osborne-Paradis, who lives in Invermere, B.C., hopes for a gentle return to snow by January. He’d like to start skiing gates in March to get a head start on the 2020-21 season.
“I feel like I’m progressing because I’ve been at such a low point for so long,” he said. “The last six weeks or so I’ve been able to really push it in the gym and not have problems with the bone.
“We’re adding skipping, which has been really nice, which will lead to eventually jogging, which hopefully will lead to losing my plus 15 (pounds) that I have right now because I just lift weights and go back to the couch.”
The upside of his enforced hiatus from skiing was spending time with three-year-old daughter Sloane that Osborne-Paradis wouldn’t have travelling the World Cup circuit.
He and his wife Lana are expecting a second child in March.
Injuries like his can end racing careers, but Osborne-Paradis didn’t retire simply because he wants to keep competing.
“As any older athlete has kind of told us, when the flame dies you know it,” he said. “You don’t pick when it happens. You’re the only who knows when you’re career is over.”
“I’d like to get back on the hill and I’d like to push it. Let’s just see what’s possible.”