Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes: The incredible story of Ondrej Bank
The 2010/2011 season was the best ever for Ondrej Bank (CZE). The best skier on the small but able Czech team closed the season with the 26th place in the overall rankings, finishing 14th in the GS, 7th in the super combined and 27th in the slalom. After various injuries, the Czech skier had had a successful comeback and was progressing in the right direction.
In the spring, Ondrej took a well-deserved vacation in Thailand. Rather than returning home relaxed and well-rested, he travelled home in May 2011 with very high fever which lasted for weeks on end. Finally, after three months of struggle, Ondrej had lost 15kg and even had to spend a week in a wheelchair because of losing all his strength. Then, in late August, his body suddenly reacted and through a self-cleanse action and major muscle pain in both of his legs seemed to get rid of the virus itself.
Bank started to get back in shape and by end of October 2011, was feeling ok. He wanted to return to racing despite missing most of the preparation period and skied a few races including starting at the World Cups in Beaver Creek, Alta Badia and Flachau without much success. In Adelboden, in January 2012, he qualified for the 2nd run but already felt a strong pain in his back. The diagnosis this time: a disc hernia! What followed was another break of five months from skiing and much hard work in the gym to rehab the back.
The months of training eventually paid off, and Ondrej Bank returned in good shape. In fact, so much so that he returned to the snow this summer. The Czech team travelled to Chile for an on-snow camp in late August, and all was well. Then in ski training, on 8th September, Ondrej hit a gate with his ski, which bounced the gate right into his jaw. The result: a broken jaw! After a week in a hospital in Chile, and a three-hour surgery in which the surgeon sew the eight pieces of his jaw back together, he could return back to Europe. Another two weeks of recovery at home ensued. The good news was that he could train and eat normally so he only lost 2kg which meant that Ondrej Bank was back skiing in Saas Fee from 2nd October.
“Ondrej now has special protection for his jaw that he needs to wear until November to ensure the jaw will not hit by a gate again before the bone has grown back together,” says Tomas Bank, Ondrej’s brother and coach. “He will need to wear that when racing in Sölden and Levi.”
He added: “My brother is really motivated to come back. He has worked really hard in the gym to fix his back problem and even developed a special new exercise routine. The tests indicate he is in good shape. Our goal is to score in all events – Ondrej wants to be an all-rounder, he likes all events and does not want to specialize. He is definitely starting in Sölden.”
“He has always been really susceptible to injury, he's like porcelain I think sometimes: I can recall at least 3 broken legs, a few broken hands, blood drainage, a shin bone fix with iron screws in 1996, an ACL injury in 1997 and again in 2004 when he also needed a meniscus fix.”
“Now after this last series, I do think he has gotten a bit more mature. He is definitely more careful and worried about getting hurt again. That could help us, in fact.”
The special jaw protection Ondrej Bank will need to wear until November (Photo Tomas Bank)