The following is an article that I wrote for my great friends at exclusiveinsight.com. You can view the original here
As the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games have been and gone, a new Olympic cycle is born. As
Olympic athletes, we go from constant high intensity, performance oriented behaviour in year four (the
Olympic Year) to a raw, development, fundamental focus in year one. It is quite a change of pace.
Whilst the high performance and winning focus is not lost, it is a chance to reflect and rebuild ahead of
the upcoming four years to the next Olympic Winter Games.
For me personally, the change of pace is hard. I genuinely enjoy the training that I do for my sport. It is
just one part of this crazy life of an athlete that I love. Gym, snow, sand- Physical training is awesome.
But as I enter year one, it is also a chance to take care of some of the curveballs that life has thrown at
You will recall that five years ago, I suffered a small stroke, almost derailing my Olympic campaign
for Sochi and changing my life forever. As an aspiring athlete in my early 20’s, (once I was recovered)
I decided against any serious intervention and engaged in a suitable management plan, so that I could
resume my athletic aspirations. Now, five years later, it was decided that further investigation was
necessary- Now is the time, year one.
We discovered that I had a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale)... In simple terms- A hole in my heart. It turns
out, everyone is born with one and they close up as you grow, but mine never closed. Roughly 20% of
the population have this condition and many live a happy and normal life. What is also interesting, is
that around 40% of people who have had a stroke (like me) have a PFO.
With all this information, and the timing... year one... AND a new medical management team, I
decided to have my PFO surgically closed. It sounds scary (it was!) and you automatically think...
OPEN HEART SURGERY. It wasn’t open heart surgery. Medicinal technology is so advanced now- I
had a device implanted inside my heart to block my PFO and it was performed by keyhole surgery.
Dr. Paul Roy and Dr. David Roy have looked after me so well and I am amazed at what they have
done. I was sedated during my procedure, so I was awake. I remember watching them feeding the
device up my femoral vein and implanting the device. I also recall them being amazed that I was not
So far, I am still in the early stages of my recovery. I am getting better and better every day and I will
be able to return to full training in no time at all. I will be on a restricted training schedule for the next
few weeks. Initially, I figured I would have two or three days off, and then get back into some easy
training- BOY WAS I WRONG. I was pretty knocked around post procedure- I managed to walk 200m
from the car to a café four days later… It felt like quite the achievement!
The point of entry for the procedure has been very bruised and sore. If I did something that I was not quite ready for, such as picking up a heavy bag, I could actually feel the device in my heart. Lesson learned. When doctors say rest, they actually mean it.
Lucky for me, I have managed to have my schedule fall in line very well, I was able to travel to
Melbourne last week and receive the ‘Ski Cross Athlete of the Year’ award at the Ski and Snowboard
Australia Awards night. This week I have resumed light training, with some yoga and short, low
intensity spin bike sessions. My ‘light return to exercise’ will continue over the weekend, with a trip to
Italy to watch a close friend celebrate her wedding. My first ever ‘holiday’ ( how good is year one!).My husband Ben has had to take care of me. Between him and our friends and family, I have been able to relax.
While it’s a scary concept, any kind of surgical intervention, I know that this has been the right
decision, not only for me as an elite athlete, but for the rest of my life!
And I am so looking forward to living it!