CARRABASSET VALLEY — For many athletes, a serious knee injury at the age of 36 would signal the end of their careers.

For Seth Wescott, it has only fueled his desire to push on.

Wescott won gold medals in snowboardcross at both the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, only to miss out on the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee 10 months earlier.

But he still plans to compete for a spot in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea – when he’ll be 41 years old.

“Absolutely,” he said this week before the start of the U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf. “I think it’s doable.”

This has been a year of introspection for Wescott, now 38. He didn’t compete this winter on the World Cup circuit, continuing to heal from knee reconstruction and from the emotional pain of his father’s death last May.

“It was a big growing year for me for sure, finding where your foundation is and starting to rebuild it again … physically and emotionally, after my dad passing and not being healthy after Sochi.”

Wescott knows the task ahead won’t be easy. He said his body doesn’t react the way it did 10 or 15 years ago.

“It is a humbling process to get hurt as you’re older, to see how much slower you heal,” said Wescott, who was raised in Farmington and lives in Carrabassett Valley.

“When I did my first knee (injury) at 25, 10 months later I was getting gold and silver at the X-Games. And this time, basically a month from now it will be two years with this (injury). The difference between healing at 37 and 38 versus 25 is pretty humbling.”

Those closest to him are certain Wescott will complete his comeback.

“When he puts his mind to something, that’s what he does,” said Johnny Warren, a childhood friend. “I think he has the capability to do it.”

Peter Carlisle, Wescott’s agent, agrees.

“His appetite for the quest, for competing in another Olympics, is exactly the same as it has been for every other Games and for the time between every other Games,” said Carlisle. “He’s doing fine.”

Wescott rode his snowboard regularly this year, but only a few times competitively.

“I think that after competing in the World Cup after 20 years anybody needs time off,” Warren said. “And if you’re going to take time off, the year after the Olympics is the year to do it. Next year you’ve got to start gearing up. I think this was the right time to do it.”

Wescott competed only in the X-Games (where he crashed during time trials) and the Sugarloaf Banked Slalom (which he won last weekend).

“I was always putting the mileage in on the hill,” Wescott said. “Everything’s building toward 2018 and it’s just a matter of putting the time in and doing due diligence to keep yourself sharp.”

He tended to his business projects with L.L. Bean and Winterstick Snowboards. He also sneaked in a snowboarding trip to the Himalayas for a segment in a Warren Miller film.

“There was a little shift in my focus this year, focusing on those things,” said Wescott, who plans to open a facility to design and manufacture the Winterstick Snowboards at Sugarloaf. “And those projects are becoming more fulfilling.”

The highlight of his winter was the trip to Nepal and the Himalayas. He received the invitation to join the film crew in January and couldn’t resist. Wescott has been featured in five of Miller’s films. The trip to Annapurna, the world’s 10th-highest mountain at 26,545 feet, “was really amazing,” Wescott said.

After arriving in Kathmandu, Wescott’s modes of travel included riding an elephant and an ox-drawn cart. From base camp at 13,500 feet, a helicopter ferried him to an elevation of 17,000 feet on Annapurna to begin riding. “It as hard to even buckle your bindings at that elevation,” he said.

Wescott injured his left knee while working with Miller in Alaska in April 2013. He fell into a crevasse and tore his ACL, requiring a patella tendon graft. He tried to come back in time for the Sochi Olympics, but never made the qualifying standard.

His knee wasn’t quite ready when the U.S. team met last November in Austria for training camp. “There was a lot of pain in the patella still,” he said.

And a lot of pain still in his heart.

His father, James Wescott, died in May when he suffered a medical emergency while rowing and fell into Megunticook Lake in Camden.

“Physically I wasn’t ready,” Wescott said. “But with the loss of my dad, I also knew I wasn’t mentally ready to go into battle either.”

Wescott still experiences moments of grief like the one he had last weekend.

“He wanted to try (the Banked Slalom) for the first time this year,” Wescott said of his dad. “There’s just a ton of moments like that.

“There’s a lot of those moments where you want to reach out and share something that’s happened. It’s a life process and not an easy one by any means.”

While he didn’t compete this winter, Wescott kept tabs on what was happening on both the U.S. team and the World Cup tour. “It was interesting seeing who was doing well, where they were in the standings,” he said. “I saw that not much had changed. That gives me confidence that as long as my body is where it needs to be that I can step right back in next year.”

He expects to begin competing next fall on a limited schedule.

Wescott feels the U.S. team has shown great faith in him by keeping him on the roster. He is the team’s oldest member by more than two years – and was the oldest member of the U.S. squads when he won both of his Olympic gold medals. “They know what I can do,” he said, adding that this will be his last drive to make the Olympics.

If he does, he has a chance to eclipse Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. The Norwegian biathlon great became the oldest individual gold medalist at a Winter Olympics, according to The Associated Press, by winning the 10-kilometer sprint at Sochi when he was 40.

“I don’t want to let an injury in the spring of 2013 write the final chapter of my career,” Wescott said. “You’ve dedicated so much of your life to getting to this point that you want to be able to go out on your own terms.”


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