It wasn't the best return to action, but U.S. Disabled Ski Team member Joe Tompkins of Juneau was back on the slopes today at the U.S. Disabled Alpine Championships despite two broken legs.
Tompkins crashed in today's downhill race at Big Sky Resort near Bozeman, Mont., but he said he was just happy to be back in action this season. Tompkins is hoping for better results during the rest of the meet, which features a super-giant slalom on Thursday, a giant slalom on Friday and a slalom on Saturday.
"Yesterday and the day before, on the two downhill training runs, on those I did fairly well," Tompkins said by phone this morning. "Yesterday I was third in the monos and 11th overall. I was expecting to do better. But I'm pretty happy to be back."
Tompkins, a 32-year-old mono-skier who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1988 auto accident, broke the fibula and tibia bones in both his right and left legs on Feb. 3 at the Huntsman Cup races for disabled skiers in Park City, Utah. The broken right leg required surgery, with rods and pins inserted into the bones. But Tompkins is now wearing air casts on his legs and he said the doctors gave him the OK to ski this weekend. Tompkins said he's only been back on the slopes for three days.
"It's a bit awkward, but it's nothing I can't handle," Tompkins said about trying to fit his legs and the air casts into his mono-ski.
In today's downhill race, Tompkins said he wasn't the only one to crash.
"I crashed in the downhill, but quite a few people crashed today, even Chris Waddell (the U.S. Disabled Ski Team's top mono-skier)," he said. "It was a nice course. I don't know why I crashed, but everybody else crashed on the bumps. I think I crashed more on a turn, I leaned too far and slid halfway down the mountain."
Complete results weren't available for the race at press time this morning.
When he was injured, Tompkins wasn't sure if he'd be able to return to the slopes in time to race again this season. But now that he's back, Tompkins said his main goal is to qualify for the U.S. Disabled Ski Team at the Paralympics next year in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"I definitely can't be sitting around," Tompkins said. "Next year is the year. And if I'm not skiing well, I could be cut from the team. I've got to ski better to make the Paralympics."