Juneau's Joe Tompkins suffered the worst kind of a break in the Huntsman Cup alpine races for disabled skiers Saturday at Park City, Utah.
Tompkins, a member of the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team, broke the tibia and fibula bones in his right leg during Saturday's giant slalom race and wasn't able to finish. Tompkins, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1988 auto accident, competes in a monoski and he said the strap that holds his legs in place broke loose and his weight shifted.
"The strap on my feet came undone during the race, and my legs came out of the machine," Tompkins said by phone from his hotel room in Park City. "That threw my balance off and I went all cattywampus. There was a pitch of probably 100 yards and after I lost control there was nothing I could do."
Tompkins said he was taken down the mountain by the local ski patrol and had x-rays at the resort. He was then taken to the University of Utah for more x-rays, and he said he will probably fly to Denver for further medical tests later this week.
He said he's wearing a temporary cast, but he will probably need surgery and metal rods inserted in both bones. The tibia is the thicker shin bone of the lower leg, while the fibula is the thinner bone on the outside of the lower leg. Tompkins said even though he has no feeling in his lower legs because of his paralysis, there is a lot of pain in his higher knee area where he has feeling.
Tompkins was skiing in the second race of a three-day competition for disabled skiers. On Friday, he took seventh among the monoskiers and 15th overall in a giant slalom and he was scheduled to compete in a slalom race today.
"This is totally a bummer," said Tompkins, who last injury was when he broke an arm in a 1998 skiing accident. "The course was good and we were racing on the same course the able-bodied skiers will be using in the 2002 Olympics."
Tompkins said he's not sure how long he will be sidelined by the injury, he still has to wait for word from the doctors, but there is a good chance this season is over. The U.S. Nationals are scheduled for March 19-24 and the only major event on the schedule after that date are the Canadian Nationals on March 25-31. If his season is over, Tompkins said he plans to start working as soon as possible on getting back on the slopes for the 2001-2002 schedule, which includes the Winter Paralympics as the feature event.