Ski jumper Alexandria Loutitt flying high after gold medal win at worlds

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Alexandria Loutitt’s right foot was broken, but there was nothing wrong with her vision, and the young ski jumper from Calgary saw only possibility.

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Last spring she had recovered sufficiently enough from off-season surgery on her left knee to return to practice. In one of her first sessions, she fell awkwardly on a landing and a tendon in her right foot exploded with such force that it tore a hole in a bone.

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But what might have been the end of her sporting career was instead a reprieve and a wakeup call. The now 19-year-old got lucky, and then she got smart.

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“I was saying this six months ago in the physio office with a broken foot that I was going to be the first woman to win both world juniors and senior worlds. My physio is looking at my broken foot and she’s like yeah, if you can walk then, I’m sure you could, while laughing. Obviously she believed I could as long as I was healthy.

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“I was like, yeah, it’s not impossible. Everybody else was like you’re absolutely insane. Go for it, but you’re crazy.”

She went for it, and on Wednesday in Planica, Slovenia, the plan came together with surgical precision. She won both rounds on the large hill to claim the first world championship gold medal for a Canadian ski jumper. In early February she became the first Canadian woman to win a world junior title. In mid-January she was the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup competition.

Using home hill advantage — the five-member Canadian team lives almost year-round in Slovenia and often trains in Planica — she completed the improbable hat trick.

“Once I broke my foot, something in me changed,” Loutitt said Thursday from her apartment in Bled, Slovenia. “It really made me re-evaluate what I wanted.”

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She knew how close she had come to losing out on all of it, and she is guided now by a healthy level of urgency in training and competition.

“That risk of it could all be over like that, it really made me change my motivation for winning and that sort of thing. I stopped using the excuse that oh just because I’m young I have time, I don’t need to feel rushed or pressured.

“But once I started putting the pressure on myself instead of having external pressure, I was really able to thrive.”

By some measure, she is Canada’s most accomplished ski jumper. She was part of Canada’s surprise bronze medal in the team event at the Beijing Olympics a year ago, and she hasn’t stopped raising eyebrows, or the profile of the sport.

In the immediate aftermath of her historic win, athletes past and present sent texts, emails and social media posts offering congratulations.

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“It’s pretty exciting to me because I still see myself as the team baby. I definitely am. … Having people who are literally some of the most famous athletes of all times messaging me and sending me congrats and how they are so excited for me or so proud of me, it’s a little bit mind-blowing that they know who I am.”

Perennial moguls champ Mikael Kingsbury was one of them, former ski jumper Horst Bulau, a 13-time winner on the World Cup tour and 1979 world junior champ, was another.

“Alexandria is on her own little planet right now,” said Bulau. “She’s the best. She’s competing with the best girls in the world. It’s fantastic. It really is. I just hope it brings her some fame and success and such. She certainly deserves it.

“She’s obviously in really good form. She’s got a good feel for everything. For her to do what she did, hey, nobody else in Canada has done it.”

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The only other person on the planet who won both world junior and world championship gold in the same year is Norwegian Tommy Ingebrigtsen, who managed the feat in 1995. That puts Loutitt’s achievement into some serious context, and it ought to provide motivation for any young kids chasing the dream.

“Seeing people before you succeed makes you feel like it’s possible and you can go above and beyond,” said Loutitt. “I hope the young girls behind me are like OK there’s someone to chase, there’s someone to follow.

“And the girls before us had it way harder than us. They fought such hard battles just so I could get to the top of that hill and have a chance to even compete for that title.”

For just the second time in history, women competed on the large hill at this year’s worlds, and they are finally being allowed an opportunity to compete in a ski flying event, Raw Air, in Norway later this month.

It is, as Loutitt says, the right time to be a female ski jumper. And she is making the most of it.

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