Day 2 of Andy Newell’s return to Europe for another race season entailed an elbow the size of an orange and an ensuing trip to the hospital in Beitostølen, Norway. Twenty-four hours later, the pain in his elbow hadn’t improved and the swelling had spread through his forearm, leading the U.S. Ski Team veteran to drive to a bigger hospital two hours away.
He spent the night there, receiving an antibiotic through an IV to make sure his condition didn’t worsen.
“The infection is not a staph infection but just a bad bacterial infection in the fascia of the skin that started right at the tip of the elbow,” Newell, 32, explained in an email on Friday. “Last week when I was doing a long core strength workout in Vermont I opened up a very small cut on my elbow from leaning on the hard gym floor. It took about a week for the infection to kick in which is why now in Norway I’m having to deal with it.”
While he had planned to start his season with Norway’s opening International Ski Federation (FIS) races this Friday through Sunday in Beitostølen, Newell had to skip Friday’s 15-kilometer classic and wasn’t sure whether he’d race Sunday’s freestyle sprint.
“I have had a few easy days of skiing with one pole and should be able to start skiing normally with two poles tomorrow [Saturday] now that the pain is going away and the swelling is getting better,” he wrote. “So I had to pull out of the 15k classic today and will probably be right on the fence for the sprint but will probably not race that either just to be safe and prepare the best I can for the world cups next weekend in Kuusamo.”
He planned to head to Kuusamo, Finland, on Monday and wrote that he was “confident I’ll feel good to go by the weekend” for the World Cup opener Nov. 26-27.
“I came here with the intention of racing so that sucks, but it still gave me a good chance to ski on real snow, adjust to the time change, and gear up for Kuusamo,” he wrote.
In terms of the hospital care in Beito and Gjovik, he said it was good even in small hospitals. While he had arrived in Europe before most of his team (except Ida Sargent, who’s racing with Craftsbury teammate Caitlin Patterson in Finland), Newell had been staying with Team BN Bank skiers, but had his own car.
Alone and in need of an antibiotic, Newell explained he consulted his team doctors.
“When something like this happens I am always in contact with the US Ski team docs the whole time so that everyone is in the loop and they help me make sure I’m making the write decisions with medications and stuff like that,” he wrote. “With antibiotic for an infection you don’t need to be too worried about there being a banned substance to treat it, we are talking about very ordinary antibiotics like penicillin and apocicilin but regardless I double check everything with them.”
While Kikkan Randall is training in Rovaniemi, Finland, the rest of the U.S. team will depart Saturday, Nov. 19, for Kuusamo.
Well before Newell’s arm infection, we asked him to tackle our ’17 Questions for 2017.’ Here’s what the three-time Olympian who recently signed on with the Vermont Bread Company had to say:
1. Biggest change in your life in the last five or so months since the ski season ended?
Getting engaged! No surprise there, but it’s been a really fun summer and I’ve just been enjoying life a lot more… Erika and I are excited about the future.
2. Biggest change in your training?
I actually changed up my training a lot this year in order to really block out distance and intervals. This spring I didn’t even know if I wanted to continue skiing just because I was tired of feeling so crappy during the season so I took a huge break from training and tried to get out of shape. Then slowly built back up starting in May and tired to block my training a lot more than in the past so that volume weeks are big and intensity weeks are packed with a lot more intensity back to back and more L4. I didn’t train more intensity than in previous off seasons I just grouped it all together more which I think has been a really productive change for me.
3. Major areas of improvement you’ve seen so far?
Much better fitness than last year, and I obviously worked on double pole a lot which is why I went over to Norway in July, so I’ve improved there. It’s funny because I really tried to focus more on DP and classic this year but in the process started to like skate skiing again haha and my power and technique is feeling better than it ever has skating! weird.
4. Whom you’ve been working closest with this offseason (coaches or training partners)?
For sure the SMS group Simi, Paddy, Ben we put in a lot of good workouts together this summer. For coaching I still work directly with Chris Grover to come up with a macro training plan but we collaborate a lot with other coaches for ideas. I worked a lot more with Jason Cork this summer because Jessie’s plan is built out very similar to mine and he’s been a great resource to have in the Stratton area during intensity and volume blocks. Pat Obrien is also the person there working hard every day to support most workouts. It’s really a team effort.
5. Best trip in the last five months (and why)?
New Zealand! because the skiing was awesome there this year but mostly because Erika came down and it was fun being at the same training camp as her and showing her all the rad views and epic skis and runs and all that.
6. Favorite cross-training?
Can I say double-poling? … double-poling. I know that sounds super dorky and weird but I enjoy good roller skiing on nice pavement. This summer when I was training with the boys in Lillehammer we would go for 3+ hours just straight double-pole, and moving at a good clip. You just kind of fall into this rhythm thats hard to explain, and you get into this groove where all your muscles; core, upper body, lower body are all working together they way they should, it’s a unique feeling.
7. Favorite non-athletic activity or pastime this summer?
Surfing with Erika, we went to Costa Rica and Maine this year.
8. Song that was your jam this summer?
Howling At Nothing – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
9. All-time favorite race moment?
Being on the podium in Drammen, I love that venue. I also love beating Norwegians in Norway.
10. First thing you pack in your bag when you leave for Europe?
Guitar, The little Martin. I don’t get to play as much when I’m home in the summer just because there’s so much stuff going on. But in the winter on the road is when I play and tend to write songs.
11. Venue/event you’re most excited to visit this season?
PyeongChang – I’m excited to check out the Olympic venue! Definitely looking forward to World Champs and other world cup weekends as well but I’m trying to steer clear of focusing on any concrete performance goals this year. I just want to stay strong and healthy and things will be all good.
12. Who will win the World Cup title this year?
Devon Kershaw and Jessie Diggins
13. Biggest sacrifice you feel you’ve made choosing this career path?
I don’t really think about sacrifices like that. Maybe financial stability? But we get by, money’s not everything.
14. If you could change one thing about your sport, what would it be?
How about some regular World Cups in America! damn we got to make that happen.
15. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Some eggs, brown cheese and toast, but thats because I’m in Norway. Normally I’m munching on some Vermont Bread Company english muffins of course!
16. In 5 years, I’ll be ____?
In 5 years, I’ll be ____? Possibly still racing, probably coaching in some way and hanging out with Erika.
17. In 50 years, I’ll be ____?
In 50 years, I’ll be ____? Possibly still racing, probably coaching in some way and still hanging out with Erika.