“YOU’VE broken your back.” As diagnoses go, they do not come much scarier than that.
But for fearless Katie Ormerod it was just an occupational hazard, the latest entry in a catalogue of injuries — Argos brochure-thick — which began with a badly gashed eye as a five-year-old.
And one which has continued with a fractured left wrist suffered in training YESTERDAY.
In fact, damaging her spine was not even the worst injury of the Team GB snowboarder’s career.
Yet it was far from ideal, less than a year before she planned to make Winter Olympics history by becoming the first Brit to win two medals at the same Games.
Ormerod, 20, explained: “It was the World Championships in Spain last March.
“It was the first run of the day, so it was like bulletproof ice because it was still in the shade.
“The course was really bad — conditions were not good at all. Not many people were enjoying it.
“I went way too big and ended up catching my heel edge and went straight onto my back. It was like hitting concrete and I chipped a bit off my vertebra.
“I just thought I’d banged my head a little bit and was a bit sore, so I chilled at the top of the course for about half an hour.
“My physio was telling me to go to hospital but I didn’t know I’d hurt my back at that point, I was just a bit shaken up.
“It wasn’t until I decided to go home for a few hours’ sleep that I bent over to do up my bag and my back was in agony.
“I went to hospital and they were like, ‘Yeah, you’ve broken your back’.
“Obviously, hearing that is really scary. I think anyone would be scared if you’re told you’ve broken your back.
“But I got away with it. The part of my back that I broke was my L3 vertebra, which meant that I could still walk about and wasn’t in excruciating pain. I just had to rest it for six weeks.
“Then I was fine again, back on snow, training like normal.”
For someone with the initials KO, it is perhaps apt that she is excelling in a sport where the encouraging words ‘Go knock yourself out’ can often be interpreted as a very real possibility.
Halifax lass Ormerod lists her mishaps matter-of-factly: “I cut my eye open when I was five years old, learning to snowboard, so that was the first one. I’ve broken both wrists and broke my left shoulder when I was 14, which is probably the most painful injury I’ve ever had.
“I separated the same shoulder two years ago when a skier crashed into me on the piste. I’ve had surgery on two mensicus tears in my knees and also done my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).
“But I love it. It’s my life now. It is a dangerous sport, we all know that, and injuries can happen. I just have to put that to the back of my mind, do the rehab and forget about it.
“It’s all I’ve ever known. I can’t remember my life without snowboarding and I’ve just accepted that if I do get injured, it’s just one of those things.”
Before yesterday’s misadventure — which she vows will not stop her competing — Team GB’s answer to Little Miss Bump had been able to chill somewhat this season, having reached the qualifying mark for PyeongChang a year ago.
It allowed her to miss several World Cup events in order to practise new tricks on Team GB’s ‘game-changing’ airbag in Livigno, Italy.
But she is pretty sure she knows which trick will bring home the gold — and luckily it is one she knows well, as she was the first woman ever to land it.
Katie O, as the snowboarding sorority call her, nailed a double cork 1080 — a jump with three complete revolutions — as a 16-year-old.
She said: “I’ve grown up balancing snowboarding with gymnastics and that experience helped massively with that trick.
“No other girl had even tried it before. A lot of preparation went into it. When I landed it clean, it was the best feeling in the world.
“World No 1 Anna Gasser did that for the first time in competition when she won the World Championships, so that trick is going to be the one that will win the Olympics. The tricks I’ve got at the minute will get me on the podium — but the back double ten, I’d really love that in my run as well because that will secure it.”
Ormerod will be competing in both the slopestyle — featuring a course full of obstacles such as rails and ramps — and big air, which is just one jump.
And with four big-air World Cup podiums to her credit, plus a slopestyle bronze at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado, last year, she really could do the double in South Korea.
She said: “It’s very realistic. I’m equally good at both big air and slopestyle and I could bring back a medal in both.
“I came fourth in the Olympic test event two years ago and I’m so much better now than I was then, so I’m feeling really good in slopestyle.
“And I’ve had so many big-air World Cup podiums that I’m feeling confident in that too, so hopefully I can bring back two medals.”
For courage alone, she deserves two medals — especially if she does it with one good arm.
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