'I'm quite fragile at the moment:' Lightning strikes twice with snowboarder out of Paralympics
PyeongChang: The circumstances were eerily similar to four years ago in Sochi. But this time a knee injury to snowboarder Joany Badenhorst was even more heart-breaking.
The Australian flag bearer, one of the country's leading medal hopes in PyeongChang, crashed out in a nasty training accident, leaving Badenhorst with a dislocated left patella and ligament damage in her left knee.
The crash happened on Saturday – just two days before Badenhorst was set to compete in the snowboard cross, one of her two disciplines at these games.
The dramatic events were remarkably similar to Sochi four years ago - when the leg amputee also didn't compete after being seriously injured in her final training run on race day.
That time Badenhorst broke her patella, collapsed her hip and dislocated her knee.
A remarkably upbeat athlete who had her leg amputated as a teenager after a farming accident, Badenhorst was devastated by the reality of attending two Paralympics and yet not getting to the competition phase.
"I can't actually think about it because it does make me really really emotional. And I'm quite fragile at the moment," she said.
"But considering the extent of my injuries and, you know, the damage I did to my back brace I'm actually very, very lucky that I was wearing a knee brace.
"It could have been so much worse.
"Yes, it's devastating that again I can't race. I've been working so hard.
"But this doesn't define me, and it doesn't define my career as a snowboarder."
The news cast a pall across the entire contingent of 15 Australian athletes plus officials in South Korea.
"To be brutally frank a medal opportunity is gone," said Australia's chef de mission Nick Dean.
"I'm devastated. Everybody's devastated.
"It's a case of lightning striking in the same place twice – identical circumstances to Sochi where in a training run prior to competition she had an injury to her knee and exactly the same thing has occurred.
"The different this time, of course, is that she's at the top of her personal game."
Badenhorst said the crash left her disoriented and she was not able to walk from the course.
"Basically, I kind of caught air off a feature in the middle of the course, just after turn four," she said.
"I felt like I was not balanced enough in the air and as I came down I was front heavy and the tip of my snowboard caught the downward ramp of a feature, it sort of tomahawked forward and slammed my body into the snow.
"There was a lot of tumbling and throughout the tumbling I got really twisted up.
"It was really painful but it didn't feel that severe, so I had hoped maybe being able to compete. I sort of clung onto that for the rest of the day.
"I couldn't walk at all. I was a little bit disoriented and in a lot of pain."
She got the fateful news that she was out of the Paralympics after medical staff assessed scans on Sunday.
"You can probably imagine I was incredibly emotional, quite devastated," she said. "I did have hopes of it turning around and being slightly more positive.
"I didn't think that I did that much damage to my knee.
"I took a moment, had a cup of tea and I'm busy working a game plan for next week."
Along with being given the distinction of carrying Australia's flag at Friday night's opening ceremony, Badenhorst is also a team co-captain.
She has vowed to remain in PyeongChang to support the other athletes.