PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Four years after suffering a life-threatening condition, American snowboarder Aaron “AJ” Muss says he wants to be recognized as one of the best in his sport and “not because I overcame something.”
The 23-year-old will compete in the men’s parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom at the Pyeongchang winter Games this week.
Four years ago, the snowboarder suffered pulmonary oedema — a build up of excess fluid in the lungs — after a routine shoulder operation and was placed in a medically-induced coma for two weeks.
He woke up in hospital with a breathing tube down his throat and no memory of what happened.
“It was one of the scariest things that ever happened to me in my life,” Muss told Reuters Television.
The trauma caused damage to his brain and forced Muss to learn how to read and write again. He also suffered some memory loss.
However, Muss said the experience also changed him as an athlete.
“I am stronger, I am fitter. I am more determined than ever,” he said. “I honestly think this accident made me who I am today and made me a better athlete.”
Muss said people who work with him understand what he has been through, but it’s not something he talks about constantly with other snowboarders.
“I want to be recognized as one of the best in my sport just for being one of the best in my sport, not because I overcame something,” he said.
There were times when he got depressed about his situation and felt like giving up on snowboarding. But he persevered and would like to help others going through the same problems.
“Just having someone there to talk to can really make a world of difference and really change what can happen in your life,” Muss said.
“I would like to be that person.”
Editing by Darren Schuettler/Amlan Chakraborty