Uplifting | Sports

From Near-Death To Olympic Success: How Mark McMorris Can Inspire Us All

Everyone has had a time in their life where all hope feels lost. Whether it's relationship problems, work issues, or health concerns, we know the feeling of being helpless. For snowboarder Mark McMorris, his helpless moment came after a near-death experience while on the hills in March of 2017.

The Star

McMorris was out in the backcountry with his older brother Craig and some friends when he hit a jump.

"He hit a jump and just went a little too far to the left and it was really unfortunate as he ran into some trees," Craig McMorris told CBC Sports. "It was a super freak accident. Mark never makes mistakes, but [in this case] he made just a tiny mistake and went too far to the left … it was awful.

The Canadian Olympic bronze medalist from 2014 was left fighting for his life. Twenty-three-year-old McMorris suffered a broken jaw, broken left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung. He was in intensive care and required multiple surgeries to repair the damage.

Instagram

"While both the [jaw and arm] fractures were complicated injuries, the surgeries went very well and both fractures are now stabilized to heal in excellent position," team doctor Rodney French said in a statement release by Snowboard Canada. "It is too early to speculate on a timeline for Mark's recovery."

The older McMorris was there at the time of Mark's injury and helped build a "nest" as they waited for help to arrive. It took several hours before he could be airlifted to hospital.

"He was incredibly broken and it's one of the hardest things to see your younger brother in that situations," Craig McMorris said.

With his jaw wired shut, McMorris only had one thing on his mind. "Will I snowboard again?" was the first thing he wrote on a piece of paper.

But the resilient Canadian was determined to bounce back for the 2018 Olympics. The young Olympic athlete wasn't about to give up, despite the long road ahead of him.

Craig McMorris

McMorris began healing and rehabilitating his injuries, which Craig documented on social media.

Craig McMorris
Craig McMorris

The McMorris family was just happy to see Mark back on his feet. The accident easily could have meant the end of his life, not just his snowboarding career.

"Mark is so focused and the hardest worker," Craig McMorris said. "He is mentally so strong with this stuff.  It’s one of his greatest traits."

Slowly but surely, Mark was getting back to normal, or as normal as possible after such a horrific crash.

"Mark's doing amazing," Craig said. "He’s like wolverine, the kid can heal like no other."

To everyone's shock and amazement, McMorris realized he was good to compete for the Olympics in October of 2017, just eight months after clinging to life on the hills of Whistler.

“To be honest, I was pretty sure I was going to die," the snowboarder revealed.

But now, just 11 months after his horrific crash, McMorris is inspiring people everywhere.

The now-24-year-old Olympic athlete competed in the slopestyle event in the Pyeongchang Olympics, something that no one thought possible after his accident. McMorris brought home a bronze medal to Canada, and credited the country for his recovery.

“Canada definitely had my back 100 per cent and I felt that,” McMorris said. “It was definitely motivating and it gave me a little extra boost and energy to do my very best and it feels really good when you end up doing well.”

Mark McMorris (left) and Max Parrot won bronze and silver medal respectively for Canada.JASON RANSOM/COC

Even though his physical wounds healed, McMorris admits the mental wounds still linger.

“Stuff’s a little bit scarier than it used to be for me, but today I wasn’t really scared,” he told CTV. "[My lowest point after the accident was] not being able to move, really, being super uncomfortable, not being able to really talk or anything like that. That sucked, because it’s just from one stupid mistake, and I wish I could take it back every day of my life. But I don’t know. Maybe it made me a better person, or stronger. Maybe it helps people get through things, too.”

Instagram

The Olympic athlete admitted that even he questioned his return to the sport after his accident.

"I didn't think I'd ever snowboard again when I was laying there after I hit that tree," McMorris told CBC. "I was awake and was waiting. As soon as the helicopter got there I went to sleep. I remember the whole time waiting, just trying to survive because (I) ruptured (my) spleen and all that and my jaw was just hanging. I was puking. I thought I was going to die — literally."

CBC

"When you get injured usually it's like, 'Oh man I'm so bummed, but I can't wait until the next time I can snowboard,'"McMorris continued. "This time I was like, 'I can't wait until the next time I can move again or like — live.'"

McMorris called his bronze medal win "pretty special," considering how much the sport has changed.

“In an ever so progressive sport it isn’t easy to stay on those podiums,” he said. “It’s a changing field all the time, so I just feel really lucky to stay in there.”

After his victory, McMorris posted a simple, yet inspirational message on Instagram. "Blessed is an understatement" he wrote.

Blessed is an understatement

A post shared by Mark McMorris (@markmcmorris) on

Though we may not be professional snowboarders who are clinging to life, McMorris has shown us how perseverance, a little faith, and a lot of hard work can change your life. Just because it may seem like everything is crumbling around you, it doesn't mean it will stay that way forever. There's a light at the end of every tunnel.

Let this be a reminder to everyone going through a tough time...better times are on their way!