As if tearing his ACL, being forced to give up alcohol and spend every waking day in rehab for nine months wasn’t bad enough, champion freestyle skier Russ Hensaw is now being forced to watch in vane as the mountains just outside of Jindabyne cop fall after fall of soft, white powder. Then there’s the fact the sport he loves, the single thing the 21-year-old lives for outside of Jenga – yeah, we thought that was weird, too* – has just been made an official Olympic sport to debut at the 2014 Winter Games.
“I’m injured at the moment so I haven’t even been able to celebrate!” says Russ. “I can’t drink, I’ve just been rehabbing and going to the gym. But I started running a little faster on the treadmill, I can tell you that. Because I found out when I was actually exercising. But no parties for me until I’m actually back on snow again.
“It was bloody hard to stay off the drink during State of Origin. Everyone was going out to the pub and I wanted to watch the game, but I couldn’t face it so I just stayed home. It’s tough. I’m 21! “But the news that slopestyle is an official Olympic sport has eased that a bit. It’s sick.”
It’s been near two months since he underwent surgery on the right knee he damaged while filming in Alaska. And while he hasn’t “gotten back on the bike” in the cliche form of the term, he has in fact physically pulled out the deadly Malvern Star treadly in an effort to rehabilitate his weakened knee. But he refused to acknowledge whether or not he’d “shaved down” for aerodynamic purposes…
“I’m getting stuck into it - riding my bike that is,” Russ said. “I’ll be back on skis in November hopefully. I’ve got to go see the doctor in October and hopefully I’ll be back at it.
“I’ve started doing heavier weights in the gym and riding the bike a heap. The muscles are fine, it’s just been a matter of waiting for the tendon to heal and it has now, so it’s full steam ahead – almost.”
Just run us through again how exactly you ended up sidelined for the winter?
“I was filming for a movie in Alaska and I came up short on one of the jumps and from there I bounced into the landing and rotated and I just heard my knee go ‘pop’. It was kinda gross,” he said with laugh that was somewhat evil. “But I’ve stayed off the drink and done everything the doctor has said to and it’s right on schedule, if not ahead.”
The fact he now has an opportunity to become an Olympian has gone a ways to numbing the paint, too. And make no mistake, becoming an Olympic medallist is Russ’ first priority after burning the bike he’ll be spending the whole winter on.
“I never really thought it was going to be an Olympic sport and I had no intentions of going to the Olympics,” Russ said. “But then it kind of popped on the radar and there was talk about it, and now it’s in I’m so motivated and stoked.
“I have no idea how they’ve going to select the team and how it’s all going down. I’ll find out in the next week or so but I’ll be doing whatever I have to, to be a part of it. I think it’ll the qualifying and Olympic event will vary between two and five jumps in the course and then a variety of rails and you have to navigate your way down and the you’re judged on the run and how tactical the tricks are, how smooth they are, how big you go and overall impression. That’s basically the sport.”
The better news is, Russ won’t be cutting back on his current events and we can expect to see him back in X-Games airspace within the year.
“X-Games up until now has been the biggest event there is and it will continue to be the annual biggest event but now with the Olympics, that will be THE event,” he said. “I’m going to keep training hard for all the events in between to keep myself comp-ready when the Olympics come though. The other events are still pretty important. I’m not going to shut-up shop and just train. That sounds horrible.”
Well, you’ve got another four months of that, buddy…
“It’s going to be a long winter,” he says laughing. "Especially considering I live in Jindabyne and I can see the snow-capped
mountains right now. It’s horrible.”
*At no time did Russ ever admit to liking, playing, owning or having heard of that awesome stacking game that is Jenga. However, nor did he deny it.