Pat Biggs competed in the Torino and Vancouver Olympics and twice cracked the top-10 at world championships. File photo
By Dan Plouffe
Pat Biggs says that never suffering a complete tear of the ACL knee ligament may have been the biggest blessing of his career.
This from a ski racer who lists off the following injuries from recent years: four knee surgeries, two on each knee, to repair meniscus and cartilage damage, and partial ligament tears; a degenerative lower back disk; a broken wrist; the loss of a testicle; and the one that pushed to his recently-announced retirement – a second concussion.
“It’s frustrating. If you have a knee injury, it’s two months or six months to rehab and I’ll be back to 100%, but with any type of head injury, you never really know,” says Biggs, who just turned 30 and decided the time was right to move on to new things in life.
“There’s a lot of things that go into recovery and coming back from an injury. This summer that fire wasn’t in me to come back from this one. It would have been a long road with a head injury.
“You’re never quite sure how it’s going to react to training, and the possibility of another crash.”
But despite the beating Biggs’ body has taken, avoiding the complete anterior cruciate ligament tear that spells the end for maybe slalom athletes was key in allowing him to enjoy a career of over a decade as one of the world’s elite ski racers.
“Injuries are part of the sport,” the Orleans native shrugs. “You train to be in condition where you hopefully don’t get hurt, but there’s always some risk in ski racing. There’s been a lot worse guys than me for injuries.
“I guess I’m kind of blessed that I made it through healthy. I did have a long career on the circuit which I’m thankful for.”
Biggs first competed on the North American Cup tour at age 18, winning four gold, five silver and four bronze throughout his career on the circuit. He won a pair of Europa Cup races in both 2004 and 2005, earned two World Cup top-10s in 2005 and finished in the top-10 at the 2005 and 2007 world championships. Since announcing his retirement in late September, many people have congratulated Biggs on what he accomplished in his career.
“It’s nice,” he smiles. “Sometimes you forget about everything that you have done because you’re always searching for the next thing.”
In recent years, Biggs spent plenty of time searching for the next medical solution. He feels that his health problems may have kept him from attaining his full potential as a racer.
“I had my back injury when I was ranked something like 22nd in the world,” Biggs recalls. “If I’d had another year injury-free there, I think I would have had the opportunity to make big improvements.”
As his world ranking slipped, so did his start position for top international races – a key factor since grooves and ruts on chewed up courses make an enormous difference for athletes starting later on. There were an abundance of recent results with the dreaded first two “DN” initials for did-not-finish or did-not-qualify as the injuries took their toll.
But something he’ll likely appreciate even more in future years, Biggs notes, is that he can call himself a two-time Olympian.
“I’d always dreamed of doing a top-10 or a podium at the Olympics,” he says. “Especially in Torino, I had a good shot at it and gave it everything.”
Biggs was 10th out of 97 athletes after his first slalom run at the 2006 Olympics and went for broke but wound up not finishing the course in his second run.
After numerous injuries to Canadian teammates, Biggs was inserted for the giant slalom at the Vancouver Games, placing 35th in his less favoured event.
Art, engineering & coaching
This past summer, Biggs at last completed his Dartmouth College degree, majoring in engineering combined with an unusual match – studio art. The former NCAA athlete left full-time school to race World Cups, but still plugged through three or four courses in the off-season for 10 years.
Biggs is now looking forward to exploring his artistic side more – he’s currently at a house working on a 10’ x 6’ mural, and a painting he donated for a Canadian Athletes Now Fund auction sold for over $3,000.
Biggs is engaged to be married next year, and will be working at the Camp Fortune club he grew up with to provide high-performance technical direction.
“It’s very exciting,” says the newly-minted coach. “It’ll be fun to try to pass along my knowledge to another generation.”