January 10, 2018 / 1:08 PM / 2 years ago

Injury robs Pyeongchang of teen slopestyle phenom Sildaru

FILE PHOTO: Estonia's Kelly Sildaru performs during the ski Slopestyle final during the Winter Games NZ, held at the Cardrona ski resort in the Queenstown Lakes district in Central Otago, New Zealand August 27, 2017. Peter Meecham-Winter Games NZ/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - The devastating knee injury suffered by teenager Kelly Sildaru just five months before the 2018 Winter Games has not only dented Estonia’s medal hopes for Pyeongchang but it has robbed the Olympics of a freestyle skiing superstar.

The gold medal favorite for the women’s ski slopestyle at the Feb. 9-25 Games in South Korea, the 15-year-old injured the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee while training in New Zealand.

At 13, Sildaru became the youngest Winter X Games gold medalist when she won ski slopestyle in 2016. She followed that up with a gold and silver medal a year later in Aspen.

Just weeks before her injury Sildaru competed in her first World Cup event, having previously been too young to compete, and won the slopestyle competition.

Since her injury, Sildaru has chronicled her recovery on various social media platforms. Her 62,000 Facebook followers are treated to photographs and video blogs detailing every stage of the rehabilitation process.

Despite the crushing disappointment of missing out on Pyeongchang next month, she is consistently optimistic about her future.

“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines,” she wrote in a caption to one of her photos on Instagram.

In another from November, she wrote, “Happiness is a direction, not a place.”

At 15, Sildaru has plenty of time to appear at the Olympics and try to add to Estonia’s seven Winter Games medals, all won in cross country skiing. She will still be a teenager when Beijing 2022 rolls around.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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