13 Oct 2017

Sport: Tongan skier not giving up despite Olympic set-back

1:17 pm on 13 October 2017

Tongan skier Kasete Naufahu Skeen has vowed to come back stronger despite injury ending his Winter Olympics dream.

The giant slalom competitor underwent surgery last month to reconstruct his right anterior cruciate ligament, after he ruptured it during training in New Zealand.

That's ruled out any last hope of him qualifying for February's Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

"It wasn't just my ACL that I did in the end: it was I did my ACL rupture completely, I tore my medial ligaments as well and my meniscus and I had a little fracture in there too for good measure," he said.

"So I did about everything I could do to my knees as possible and I think, in a way, that made it easier to accept in the end. I think if it's something you can kind of soldier on with then psychologically that can be quite hard.

"When the outcome is actually so absolute that you've got no other choice but to have surgery and to kind of reassess everything and go from a new baseline then you have to accept it so in the end I think I didn't feel too bad about it".

A ruptured ACL has ended Kasete Naufahu Skeen's Winter Olympics dream.

A ruptured ACL has ended Kasete Naufahu Skeen's Winter Olympics dream. Photo: Facebook/Kasete Naufahu Skeen

It wasn't the first injury blow for Skeen, who also fractured his hand in January, which affected his performance at the World Alpine Ski Championships in St Moritz a month later.

"I was skiing at the World Championships with a fracture in my hand still, two months after I fractured it, and that was much harder to deal with psychologically," he said.

"Because I was constantly training and continuing with a fractured hand that I was kind of subconsciously trying to protect and so psychologically and emotionally that was much harder".

Tongan skier Kasete Skeen.

Tongan skier Kasete Skeen. Photo: Supplied

The self-described "ski geek", who quit his job in November and moved to Austria in an attempt to realise his Winter Olympics goal, admitted making it to South Korea was always a long-shot but, up until the injury, believed he was making real progress.

"I really felt like a lot of my training in Europe was starting to kind of come together because one of the big things is to be consistent and to put your best run together time after time after time," he said.

"For me consistency was a big problem - again, that's something the comes with experience. So I was just finding a more consistent form down here in New Zealand and it was all coming together.

"And the feeling is great as well when it comes together - you can go up and you can do another run and you get that feeling again and then you back and do another run and you get the feeling. You just want more and more when it's like that".

Kasete Skeen said his goal now was to recover, come back stronger and ski again in the 2019 World Championships in Sweden.

"My enthusiasm is as big as it's ever been really - I want to continue to ski, I want to ski more and I want to compete more so I really can't wait for the day when I can get back on skis and slide down a mountain in anger.

"To go to Sweden would be a dream as well because it's actually the resort where a lot of my skiing began really so it's kind of like a different kind of homecoming".