One of the most decorated freestyle skiers in Winter X Games history expects to feel nervous Saturday.
Kaya Turski returns to the annual extreme sports festival in Aspen, Colo., after a two-year absence due to injuries.
“Definitely ignites a lot of great feelings in my being,” Turski told The Canadian Press from Aspen. “You get these special butterflies.
“I’ll tell you, my hearts going to be dropped down into my stomach and everything is going to be upside down, but it’s going to be amazing. There’s nothing like being in the start gate at the X Games.”
Five of her eight career X Games gold in women’s slopestyle were won in Aspen with the other three earned in Tignes, France.
Not only is the 28-year-old from Montreal back to compete in slopestyle Sunday, but women’s Big Air makes its X Games debut Saturday.
Big Air is an amplified version of slopestyle with bigger jumps for height and distance.
“It’s a big step for us,” Turski said. “I feel honoured that I’m part of the movement. I was at the first ever slopestyle for women in Aspen in 2009. Here I am almost a decade later (still) part of the movement.
“It’s not my strongest event, but I’m definitely going to go in with an open heart and mind and go for it.”
Turski posted a gaudy score of 96.66 in 2010 to win the first of three straight slopestyle titles in Aspen.
She was the reigning world champion heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Turski tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee while training just six months out from the Games.
Experimental surgery that grafted a combination synthetic-cadaver ligament into her knee got her to the 2014 X Games, where she won another gold, and then to Sochi, only to be struck by illness there.
She crashed in qualifying and didn’t make the final.
Turski underwent another post-season knee surgery in the summer of 2014 and didn’t compete for a year and a half.
Her plans to ski in last year’s X Games were thwarted when she broke her left arm six weeks out.
“It’s been a long ride,” Turski said. “I’ve had injuries to overcome.
“Now I have a bit of a different body I guess that I have to work with and adapt my training to.”
She placed third in December’s Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colo., to gain an X Games invite.
Turski knows from experience the momentum a big performance in Aspen can inject into a season, so she’s looking for a reboot there.
“It definitely gets you riding pretty high,” she said. “You are really elevating yourself on a huge platform.”
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Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press