If you were to look at Maddy Schaffrick’s long list of accomplishments, you might guess she’s about 20 years old.
The 17-year-old snowboarder from Steamboat Springs, Colo., who will compete this weekend in her third Winter X Games in the women's SuperPipe, already has landed on plenty of podiums at major competitions. She turned pro as a freshman, hit the road (with her school books in tow) and started climbing up the rankings.
Her right knee, unfortunately, wasn’t totally on board. A former soccer player, Schaffrick had to have two surgeries in middle school to stabilize her meniscus. Then in August of 2010, she was riding in New Zealand and went off the run to avoid an out-of-control skier. She ran into some rocks.
“My hip hurt the most, and I couldn’t feel my lower back,” says the 5-foot-1 Schaffrick. “I thought I shattered my pelvis. That turned out to be just nerve damage, but after I flew home, we figured out that I blew out the ACL, MCL and meniscus in my right knee.”
Eighteen months later, she’s back to being a force on the Tour -- she finished in second place at the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain in December -- just in time for her third appearance at the X Games, which open Thursday in Aspen.
We caught up with her earlier this month and got her thoughts about riding, being injured, staying focused in the pipe and on her goals.
Here’s what she had to say:
Back in her groove: Snowboarding feels amazing to me now. I feel like I’m getting my sanity back. Snowboarding is such an adrenaline-based sport, and to lose that adrenaline rush was really hard. Snowboarding is my outlet to release stress and express myself. When I didn’t have it for 18 months, I really understood the importance of it in my life.
Getting in the spin of things: I’ve been working on landing a 900 (2.5 rotations); it’s a key component for getting on the podium. I got 10 stitches on my eyebrow from trying them in Breckenridge recently, and I’ve still got a nice little black eye. I’ve landed some Cab 900s (riding switch into the 2.5 rotations), but I’m not sure I’ll try one in the X Games.
Three magic words: Confidence, Control, Focus. I repeat those three words to myself before I drop into the pipe and really concentrate on getting those feelings in my body. Doing so makes a huge difference. I don’t worry about the spectators or feel any pressure. I just do my best to be in the moment and in the trick.
Maddy: 1, Fear 0: I’ve had some coaches tell me I’m fearless. I’m not sure if that’s totally true — I definitely get scared — but I don’t let fear stop me from doing anything. I feel fear, but I don’t change my ways. I’ve always been known as a technical rider, and now I’m also working on boosting up my amplitude. I’m going bigger than I ever have.
Living in the present: I am really trying to take things day-by-day. I try not to think about the 2014 Olympics or other competitions. I think about what I can do right now. I used to think a lot about the future, and started having these expectations for myself that got hard to handle, especially when things didn’t turn out how I wanted.
Mind games: When I was injured, I couldn’t think about snowboarding because it hurt too much. I didn’t want to tease myself.
Back to school: When I’m competing, I do a lot of my work through email and take tests when I’m in town. When I hurt my knee, I went to school full-time to cram in my course work so I could graduate early. I’ll come back in June for the graduation ceremony with my [Steamboat Springs] classmates.
Killing time: While I was injured, I helped direct the play “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which was so fun. I also took a creative writing class, and fell in love with writing. I really like writing poetry and fantasy short stories.
Out of the pipe: In order to stay strong, I lift weights and do cardio. I like to run, but my knees and ankles can’t really take that, so I go on the elliptical and bike instead. I enjoy yoga, too, and try to do that at least once a week.
Ultimate goal for the X Games — and all future competitions: To land a run I’m happy with. After that, it’s up to the judges.