Estonian freestyle skiing sensation and junior world champion Kelly Sildaru shares her experience of overcoming a disappointing injury setback at a young age 

As one of the most exciting young talents in her sport, 15-year-old Kelly Sildaru has been tipped to achieve great things in her freestyle skiing career.

In 2016, and at the age of just 13, the Estonian prodigy made history by becoming the youngest gold medallist at a Winter X Games in the slopestyle event, before repeating the feat a year later.

But her hopes of winning gold on the biggest stage of all – the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 – were dashed in September 2017 when she suffered a serious knee injury in a fall while training in New Zealand, ruling her out of action for a considerable period of time.

Not that she let the misfortune get to her. Since the setback, Sildaru has been determined to come back stronger and better than ever – and believes sharing her experience with fellow athletes can help them overcome their own injury-related disappointments …

Cope with the initial setback
“When I crashed, I stood up and skied straight to the bottom. It wasn’t that bad, and it didn’t hurt initially. It was pretty much as if I’d twisted my knee or something. I thought it would be fine after a few days, and that I could go skiing again soon. But when I went to see the physio the next day, she touched my knee and it felt a bit loose. She told me that I’d probably torn my anterior cruciate ligament. That was quite a big shock for me, because I was walking normally and I wasn’t feeling pain or anything. I had no idea it might be something that bad.”

Keep a positive mindset
“The first few days weren’t nice, because I had performed very well in the World Cup the week before, and I had big hopes for the upcoming season. Then I thought, ‘I can’t change anything about it. I just need to fly back home, go to the doctor, see what they say and take things step-by-step’. So that’s what happened next. For me, staying positive isn’t very hard, because I know when I’m exercising and doing a lot of gym work, it makes me feel better, and helps my knee get better too.” 

Listen to family and friends
“When I’m not at the gym working on my recovery, I hang out with my family and friends. Their support has been great for me. They always tell me not to worry, and that I’ll be fine eventually. They kept me company during the early days of my injury, and we’d often go to the cinema. It’s been very important having them by my side. When they first came to visit me, I completely forgot about my injury. That was a really big help.” 

Get expert advice
“It’s important to consult an expert, because they know exactly what you need to do to bounce back. Even if it doesn’t seem like you are experiencing any problems or pain and you think everything is fine, you could go skiing and make it worse. My advice would be to stay positive, keep training and exercising, and hope for the best. It will be all right after some time.”