PYEONGCHANG • Eleven months ago, Mark McMorris was fighting for his life after breaking 17 bones and suffering a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen in a snowboarding accident. On Sunday, he won an Olympic bronze.
The Canadian staked an early claim for the most inspirational story at the Winter Games in the snowboard slopestyle, sealing third behind compatriot Max Parrot and American teenage gold medallist Red Gerard.
Talking after winning bronze, McMorris reflected on his journey from near-death to worldwide headline maker.
"I don't want to think too much about the past, but I appreciate the fact I'm here on my snowboard," he said. "Whatever the outcome was, just me being pumped on being able to ride a snowboard.
"A lot of the time, I need to pinch myself because now I feel so good and comfortable on my board, but eight months ago, I probably didn't think I was going to be able to snowboard at this level again. I'm just lucky to be here. It's a miracle and I'm really thankful."
His heroics were recognised by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tweeted: "What a journey back to the podium for Mark McMorris. Mark - your tenacity & courage inspire so many of us."
McMorris' career had been very much on the upwards trajectory, having won bronze at Sochi 2014 and numerous Winter X Games golds. But last March, he suffered had an accident after hitting a tree. His multiple fractures included his jaw, left arm, pelvis and ribs, and he was placed in a medically-induced coma.
The 24-year-old, who could have another chapter in his story when he goes in the big air competition in Pyeongchang, added: "I've been really stuck in the contest scene for a while, or on a death bed, so I'm pretty stoked. It does feel like a win."