Megan Tandy was set for a good week: the biathlon World Cup returned to Canada and for the first time, she was going to race at the highest level on the closest thing to a home course in Canmore, Alberta.
On Wednesday morning, Tandy went on a morning jog and everything changed.
“I had actually been running there at least five times before,” she said of the Canmore dog-walking trails where she jogged. “But it was snow-packed trails and it just happened that my left foot broke through the snow crust unexpectedly and it was like nothing fast, nothing hard, nothing extreme, but I fell forward onto outstretched hands. I must have just done it at the perfectly wrong angle because it fractured the scaphoid in my left wrist.”
Tandy initially thought it was just a clumsy fall and that with an ibuprofen, things would be all right; her first start would have been Friday in the women’s 7.5 k sprint.
But her wrist began to swell up and Tandy had to look for expert advice.
“After 20 minutes my wrist was 30 percent larger and swelling,” she said. “I got in touch with our massage therapist who is in town and sent her a picture and after half an hour it looked, I mean, really it looked awful … Thirty minutes later we went down to the emergency room and got the X-rays. I think by the time I was at the hospital it hurt enough and it was swelling rapidly enough that I did know that I really truly injured it. Still, it was not what I wanted to hear when they were like ʻOkay can you go wait in the casting room.’ ”
Her wrist was so swollen that it affected the casting process, and in ten days she will have to go in to get a new, smaller cast put on. Only at that point will a detailed prognosis become clear.
But one thing already is clear: with a general healing time of six to 12 weeks for a scaphoid fracture, Tandy’s season is over.
“Iʼm not pre-qualified for World Championships, so I needed to show that I deserved a spot on the team with the races next week in Presque Isle,” Tandy said. “So yeah, my season just ended.”
Tandy was replaced by fellow Prince George, B.C., native Sarah Beaudry in Friday’s sprint, where Beaudry finished 38th.
It was a disappointing end to a season that just didn’t measure up for Tandy, who had a seeming breakthrough in 2014/2015. Last season she notched five of the six best results of her career, including four top-15 finishes.
In 2015/2016, her best finish was 25th in the pursuit in Östersund, Sweden, in the first week of racing.
“I know that itʼs normal and sport has up and downs, but my feeling is that I kind of had two healthy World Cups at the beginning of the season, the first two, and then itʼs just been a weird season for illness and injury,” Tandy lamented. “In Pokljuka, I passed out on course, and I struggled over the next weeks to feel fit and energized again. Then in Antholz, I finally had a day where I was like, ʻOkay Iʼm starting to feel back in shape, the ski speedʼs there,ʼ and then this happened.”
Tandy is still at the World Cup in Canmore, cheering for her teammates and helping out the organizers with some finish-line interviews. Her family, who had come to support her, is now helping take care of her. Instead of traveling to Presque Isle, Maine, for the next week of World Cups, she will go home to Prince George.
“Iʼm making the best of it, or trying to,” she said.
It’s not just this season, but next season which is now in question for the 27-year-old mother. She had not yet met criteria for carding (athlete funding support) from Sport Canada, which means her continued training is in jeopardy.
There is an illness/injury provision in the carding criteria, but Tandy is unsure if she qualifies for it.
“I would really really like to continue until 2018,” said the two-time Olympian. “That was my dream and I still have a lot of confidence and fight in me. Mostly built up from results last season where Iʼm like, ʻno if I buckle down, I really truly believe I can still perform better.’ But Iʼm not 100 percent sure if it will be financially realistic to keep doing the sport. I have a little bit of time now so I will obviously find out if there are any exceptions to the funding situation. But I think itʼs more likely to not work, than to work.”
Tandy’s training situation was less than ideal this offseason. She has lived in Germany for several years; this year she moved to Klingenthal to be near enough to her young son to see him. While Klingenthal is something of a mecca for ski jumping, it wasn’t for biathlon, and Tandy was training primarily alone and struggling to find biathlon-specific training opportunities.
Going into the next two years, she was determined to find herself a better situation, even if that meant living farther away from her son.
“I would be basically looking at it like, OK, these are the last two years of my career, Iʼm going to make every possible compromise to make this happen,” she said. “I think I would have been basically living at the training center in Rupholding full time and I would have been traveling back and forth to see my son when I had visitation rights. This year, I lived where my son is, but the reality is I only see him on my visitation days anyway.”
Her message is clear: if she can find funding, through carding or private sponsors, she aims to not only recover from her broken wrist, but return to the World Cup points, and then some.
“I wonʼt ignore the lessons I learned this season, and Iʼll choose to train in a different environment,” she said. “[During recovery] I will enjoy my time with my family and Iʼll enjoy my time with my little guy when I get back. As for biathlon, Iʼm going to fight for it. Itʼs really, really what I want. Iʼve known for a long time. Iʼve looked and said ʻOK, 2018 thatʼs what I want to do and Iʼm not going to give up on another two years without a fight.’ ”
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.