WHISTLER (Reuters) - Like the wild lynx that was seen roaming Whistler’s Sliding Center this week Adam Rosen is something of a rarity — a British luge Olympian.
In fact, AJ, as he is better known on the circuit, is the British luge team — period.
What is more, he should not really be here.
As if having no budget and no sledge at various times since he appeared as the second youngest slider at the Turin Games was not enough, a terrifying accident four months ago left him wondering whether he would even walk properly again.
That he has returned to the scene of that horror crash which left him with a dislocated hip and serious nerve damage is all the more remarkable but it says a lot about the 25-year-old aeronautics student’s determination to continue sliding.
“After I had the accident I never thought about stopping, I knew I would get back on the sled, it was just a matter of time,” Rosen, who was born and raised in New York, but opted to represent the country of his mother’s birth, told Reuters.
When he looked up to see his left leg at a sickening angle after a training crash at Whistler in October, Rosen could have been excused for opting to bury his head back into his textbooks and pursue his long-term goal of being a pilot.
“It was a pretty nasty crash,” he recalls. “I flipped, hit the top curve and it flung me to the bottom. I didn’t feel the hip come out but then when I looked my leg was pointing the wrong way. It was extremely painful.”
As well as the dislocation, he tore all his hip flexor muscles and damaged the sciatic nerve which left him with a condition known as foot drop.
“Even now when I walk for a long distance you hear my foot flopping on the ground,” said Rosen, who underwent round-the-clock rehab at a specialist center in Bisham Abbey, England.
Incredibly, he returned after eight weeks although sliding, particularly the explosive starts, still has him wincing.
“It was tough, but I just had to stop thinking about the pain and get on with it. It was like re-learning everything.”
Rosen is nothing if not a fighter. He waited on tables and even worked at a friend’s used-car dealership in New York to finance his passion after the British Luge Association said it could not fund him.
As if to prove a point, he posted a career-best sixth place in a World Cup race in Calgary in 2009 on a borrowed Canadian sled, the best ever result by a Briton.
In the build-up to Vancouver he has trained with the Canadian luge team, giving him precious sliding time at Whistler where he managed to banish the memory of his crash.
“I was definitely nervous the first run back down the track, that was like the first barrier,” he said.
He also managed to buy a new sledge after British TV producer Russ Malkin stepped in with some cash while his coach, Thomas Zeitz, is a friend of great German slider Georg Hackl.
“Hackl once had a sled designed by Porsche,” Rosen said of his idol. “When you look at the Germans they spend ridiculous amounts of money on equipment. I can’t compete with that but it makes it more satisfying when you beat them.”
Editing by Miles Evans