There is no one on our Forty Under 40 list who exemplifies perseverance more than Kelly VanderBeek.
The 29-year-old has battled a ton of adversity over the last 15 months, and has come away a much stronger person.
On Dec. 17, 2009 VanderBeek crashed on a World Cup training run at Val d’Isère, France.
She was left with a torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and a tibial plateau fracture in her left knee.
Worse still, the crash came two months before the 2010 Winter Olympics, where VanderBeek was to race on Canadian soil.
VanderBeek spent Christmas on a couch. In the months ahead she would go under the knife and then face endless hours of re-hab.
Actually, my answer is yes,” she said, when asked if she ever thought about giving up. “I wanted to give up the pain and the struggle. But we must face our realities and make the best of them. That is what I tried to do every day, but it wasn’t easy or smooth.”
VanderBeek leaned on friends, family, her community and her medical team.
“Nothing in life is done alone, and my recovery was no different,” she said. “The injury helped launch me into new careers as a television host and children’s photographer, which has been incredible in and off itself. I suppose the old cliché holds true. When one door closes a window opens.”
Still, a return to the hills remained VanderBeek’s top priority.
She worked at it day by day, doing her best to stay in the moment and not push herself too hard.
“Every moment I spent on recovery and rehab were essential to my life and happiness regardless of whether or not I skied again,” she said. “However, it was my passion for sport and this community I’ve grown to love that got me through the toughest moments.”
On Sept. 18, 2011 all the hard work paid off as VanderBeek strapped on the skis and took to a run in Chile.
“It felt amazingly normal,” she said. “For me, getting back on my skis was like coming home.”
In the months since she’s been working hard to regain her form, once more chasing the Olympic dream. The comeback will truly be complete if she’s on a ski hill in Sochi, Russia in February of 2014.