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Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Updated: January 30, 4:37 PM ET
The Fighter

By Megan Michelson

You didn't see Simon Dumont compete in Ski SuperPipe at X Games Aspen last week, and you might never see Simon Dumont, 27, ski in another halfpipe contest. The freeskiing pioneer, who has been competing at X Games since he was 14 years old, has announced that he's transitioning to the next chapter of his career.

Simon Dumont has competed in 11 years of X Games. He's now taking a step back from halfpipe competition.

On Friday, Jan. 24, Dumont went under the knife for his sixth surgery in the last year and a half. This time, it was to repair the ACL in his left knee. The surgeries before that fixed his left and right hands, his wrist, his ankle and his right knee.

"You could sulk or you could come back twice as strong mentally and physically, and that's what I've tried to do every single time [I got injured]," Dumont says. "But how many times can you come back from this? It's starting to wear on me."

A week before his most recent knee surgery, Dumont felt a weird pain in his left knee while training for the Grand Prix at Park City, Utah, the last in a series of Olympic qualifier events. Dumont needed a top result in Park City to cement his spot on the first U.S. Olympic freeskiing halfpipe team headed to Sochi, Russia.

It was a two-day contest and his doctor advised him to sit out the first competition on Friday night. The next morning, an MRI showed that his ACL was completely shredded. Dumont decided to ski in the second Grand Prix halfpipe contest slated for that Saturday anyway.

"I wanted to take another run for myself. I didn't want to go out on someone else's terms," he said. "I wanted to go up there, see the crowd, hear those cheers that I've enjoyed for so long … I wanted to take it all in for, who knows, maybe the last time."

Dumont threw down on his first run, and the crowds roared under the lights. He didn't start his second run and ended the contest in 12th place, not enough to grant him that Olympic position.

"I think I just skied my last pipe comp ever," he tweeted that night. "Sorry for letting you all down. I tried my hardest to make it to the Olympics."

Simon Dumont hasn't let anyone down.

A child gymnast from Bethel, Maine, Dumont started skiing at age 3 and went pro by 13.

After his X Games debut in 2002 -- in which he begged the sport organizers for a spot to compete -- he won his first SuperPipe gold in 2004 and his second gold the year after that. Since then, he's won nine medals (three gold), and he competed at X Games for 11 years in a row, qualifying for SuperPipe finals in each.

"I remember Simon being persistent about getting a shot at X Games. His talent was undeniable, and, like most of the best athletes, he let that do the bulk of the talking for him," says Chris Schuster, the longtime ski sport organizer for the X Games, who granted Dumont his first spot in the event. "From then on, Simon was one of the pioneers of what pipe skiing has become. Guys like him, Tanner Hall and CR Johnson were pushing the sport to a new place. They were going so much bigger than anyone else out there and really changing the idea of what could be done."

Dumont has hardly been just a competition skier. In 2007, he started his own ski clothing and accessories brand, Empire; in 2008, he boosted 35 feet out of a quarterpipe and set a new world record; in 2009, he launched his own slopestyle contest, the Dumont Cup, at his home resort of Sunday River, Maine; and in 2011, he helped design a revolutionary cube-shaped pipe at Squaw Valley in California and filmed a breakthrough segment for Poor Boyz Productions.

He also bought a couple of houses and a restaurant in Florida and became Target's first sponsored freeskier.

"When it's your time, something's going to go wrong, and it's how you deal with it that counts," Dumont says.

Last year at X Games Aspen -- over a decade since his X debut -- Dumont proved he could still keep up with the sport's newest stars when he earned a bronze medal behind Americans David Wise, now 23, and Torin Yater-Wallace, now 18. At that point, gaining a spot on the U.S. Olympic team seemed like a distinct possibility for Dumont.

Those Olympic dreams remained until Park City two weeks ago, when Dumont's knee fell apart on him when he needed it most. And when the U.S. Olympic team was announced and his name wasn't on the list.

Instead, the U.S. halfpipe team includes Wise, Yater-Wallace and relative newcomers to the scene Aaron Blunck, 17, and Lyman Currier, 19.

"Those guys didn't take anything from me. If anything, I lost the spot because I got injured," Dumont says about not making the U.S. team. "I don't think my skiing ability is less than anybody else's out there. It's luck of the draw, and things just didn't go my way."

Although Dumont says he'd consider coming back to compete at X Games -- more for the fun of it than to satisfy his usually ruthless competitive drive -- he says he's ready to move on from judges and scores.

He'd like to spend more time filming -- "I'd love to make a ski movie that the masses would really enjoy and the core [fan base of skiing] would love at the same time," he says -- and possibly announcing at events and other elements within the world of freeskiing. He's also dabbled in rally car racing ("Probably not my next career," he admits), and he says he's given thought to becoming a sports agent.

Most of all, he says, when he leaves freeskiing, he hopes he'll be remembered as a fighter, someone who never gave up.

"My goal has always been to be one of the best skiers of all time," he says. "Why would you do something if you're not going to be the best?"