Seven surgeries later - Katie Ormerod back in full training after PyeongChang agony

British snowboard star feels "so strong" despite undergoing seven operations in a year after snapping her heel in practice in Korea.

Snowboarder Katie Ormerod hopes to return to competition within weeks after almost a year out with a broken heel.

The Briton went to PyeongChang 2018 as a medal contender in both Slopestyle and Big Air.

But her dreams were shattered by a training fall which left her with a broken heel bone requiring extensive surgery and months of rehab.

Now Ormerod has returned to the board, and "in a good mental space, and I feel so strong right now. I should get my kicks back quite soon," according to The Red Bulletin.

Freak accident

Ormerod was one of the favourites for a medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

She gained attention aged 16 when she became the first woman to land a double cork 1080.

Just over a year before PyeongChang, she had secured her first World Cup Big Air win in Moscow, and taken Slopestyle bronze at the Winter X Games.

But instead of competing, the Briton was ruled out after not one but two training crashes.

Two days before the start of the Games, Ormerod broke her wrist. Not wanting to miss the Games she returned to practice the next day.

But her Olympic hopes were ended when she came off a rail awkwardly, breaking her right heel in two, and landing her in a hospital bed for a week.

Ormerod had experienced her fair share of injuries in previous years, including a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament, a fractured shoulder and two broken arms.

But this was on a different level.

A week later, Ormerod told The Guardian, "I’ve never felt pain like it. But the hardest bit was having to pull my boot off, which took them one or two hours.

"The team got scissors and they had to cut as much of the boot off as they could. There was still a little bit that they had to slide off and eventually they just pulled it off me and it was agony.

"I was screaming in pain, it was awful."

X-rays showed a clean break with surgeons inserting two pins in her heel, but she was still in agony when she woke up.

Hard road back

After returning to Britain, Ormerod was dealt another blow.

The broken heel bone, while not penetrating the skin, had cut off the blood supply.

The skin had turned black and died, meaning Ormerod needed a skin graft with doctors using skin from her hip and skin from a pig.

Speaking to BBC Sport in November, she said, "The doctor mentioned using shark skin but on the day of the operation he decided they would use pig skin instead.

"It's really noticeable, I have a big dip in my ankle now and the skin is a lot darker."

That was her fifth operation since her PyeongChang crash.

Little did she know that there would be more to come.

Speaking to The Red Bulletin, Ormerod said, "I thought that would be the last of the operations and I’d be able to start my rehab properly, but I was on crutches for three months.”

And her lack of activity also took a toll on her mental health.

"I couldn’t move far; when I stood up, the blood would rush to my foot. I couldn’t even leave the house. That was hard to deal with.

“I had all these plans to travel after the Olympics, do all these competitions and have an amazing summer, but that was taken from me.

"My life was just one operation after another, followed by rehab. It was a really dark period for me."

And despite perennially positive updates on her Instagram, Ormerod admitted to BBC Sport that she was putting a brave face on the situation.

"It is not always real but I felt I had to be positive to help others."

"I felt like I was the only one going through difficult times but, after four months, I realised one day that I wasn't the only athlete or person in the world going through it.

"As soon as I started opening up, I felt better."

Back on track

Operation number six came in July after the bone had grown back "into the shape of a hook" and needed to be "shaved off".

But the rehab was going well, and September was a month of milestones.

First, she managed to start running again a week after her 21st birthday.

And then she was able to get back on her snowboard.

But after experiencing pain in her Achilles tendon, Ormerod had her seventh operation since her PyeongChang fall in late October.

That really was the end of the surgery, and Ormerod is back on the slopes and hoping to return to action in February.

She told The Red Bulletin, "Thanks to the rehab, I’m physically much stronger than before. Mentally, too – I’m returning to snowboarding with a clear head.

"I’ve had so many injuries, but this is the only one that’s fazed me. I never want to feel that much pain ever again. This might change me, make me smarter.

"Once, I might have competed in bad weather, but now I’ll wait until the weather’s good."

As for her long-term future, Ormerod has one goal in mind.

"I have unfinished business with the Olympics. I definitely want to get that medal in Beijing and I'll keep pushing myself until I get it." - Katie Ormerod speaking to BBC Sport in November

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