Joany Badenhorst was feeling the best she ever had on a snowboarding course before a “freak” crash left her with a horrible case of deja vu.
The Australian co-captain has been ruled out of a second consecutive Winter Paralympics after dislocating her kneecap on Saturday, two days before she was to compete in Pyeongchang.
Badenhorst, who carried the flag at the opening ceremony, was one of Australia’s best hopes to break a 16-year Paralympic gold medal drought after reaching the World Cup podium 22 times since Sochi 2014.
She failed to compete in Sochi after a crash on her final training run left her with a collapsed hip and dislocated knee, with the eerily similar fate four years later coming after failing to negotiate a feature on the cross course.
“I was not balanced enough in the air,” Badenhorst said.
“As I came down I was front heavy and basically the tip of my snowboard caught the downwards ramp of a feature and I kind of tomahawked forward and slammed my body to the snow.”
“There was a lot of tumbling and throughout the tumbling, I got really twisted up, really twisted.”
Born in South Africa, Badenhorst lost part of her left leg 13 years ago in a farming accident, the same leg that was injured.
The 23-year-old came into the Games with two recent World Cup titles and was confident about her prospects.
“I wanted it and you could tell in my riding. I was riding aggressively and was riding incredibly well. Definitely the best I’ve ridden in my life,” she said.
“It does make me really really emotional and I’m quite fragile at the moment.
“Considering the extent of my injury and the damage I did to myself and my back brace, I’m actually very, very, very, lucky I was wearing a knee brace, my helmet and my back brace.
“It could have been so much worse.”
In the lead-up to competition, Badenhorst said it was up to her coach to decide if she would take a safety-first attitude to her training runs.
Chef de mission Nick Dean said there was no consideration to have Badenhorst take it easy before competition.
“She was going great … it was a nasty fall,” Dean said.
“Identical circumstances to Sochi … the difference this time, of course, is she’s at the top of her game.
“She’s right up there in the best in the world and to be brutally frank, there’s medal opportunities gone.
“There was just a nano-second in it between hurting herself and performing a wonderful training run.”
Badenhorst, who was also to contest the banked slalom, became the first Australian woman to carry the flag at a Winter Paralympics.
Australia will be represented in para-snowboarding cross in PyeongChang by Simon Patmore, Sean Pollard and Ben Tudhope on Monday.