Machon ‘calculated rather than reckless’

Sheffield's freestyle skier James Machon.
Sheffield's freestyle skier James Machon.
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Four months ago, James Machon had not skiied for a year.

The slopestyle star from Sheffield was coming to the end of a long lay-off from surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament and, perhaps understandably, thought he had no chance of making the British team for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Torn ACL’s are common among freeskiers, but a mis-
diagnosed infection exacerbated the problem.

Machon said: “The mis-diagnosis could have been life threatening. I kept going to hospital and they kept saying it’s fine. Eventually it got into my system and I was in hospital for a week with it.

“It was an infection in the skin of my knee and I had to have another operation. It was so bad I couldn’t move my body.

“There’s a little bit of anger, but I guess it happens and no one’s really to blame. I never lost my belief, it just gave me more drive to get in the gym.

“I spent much of last summer in the gym because I’d lost a lot of muscle on my leg and I had to get that back.”

Armed with a fresh perspective, Machon headed to Calgary at the start of January knowing he had to perform well in the final two rounds of the World Cup to make the British Olympic team.

“I had to be quite tactical about how I skiied,” he said. “In Canada, I had to do a safety run to get me into the top 20, and for the final meet in Breckenridge I had to learn a new trick, an unnatural 
10-80, and put that into both runs to get enough points.

“Learning a new trick and inventing one that no one has done before is something you have to do with complete faith in your ability to land it. You have to put the injury out of your mind.

“When I went back on snow I wasn’t too worried about my knee because I’d had loads of testing done on it and it was stronger than before and that gave me a lot of confidence.

“I wouldn’t say I was fearless. I learned the trick in training, it’s something I’d been wanting to do for a while so it wasn’t reckless, it was more calculated.

“But it had to be done.”

Machon executed the move and the young man who learned to ski on the artificial halfpipe in his home city had booked his seat on the plane to Sochi.

“Now I’ve made it, I’ll be happy with whatever happens, but I’d like to get in the final,” said the 23-year-old.