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Ted Davenport: The toughest leg

The air that undid two-time WHC champ Ted Davenport. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Big-mountain skier and BASE jumper Ted Davenport traveled from his home in Aspen, Colo., to New Zealand this month to compete in the recent World Heli Challenge, which he won the past two years. But instead of walking away with another trophy, Davenport will leave New Zealand in a wheelchair with broken bones in both of his legs. He took a bad crash on the second day of the contest. He answered questions about the crash by email from New Zealand.

You went to NZ as the two-time defending champ of the World Heli Challenge. What was your plan going into the contest?
I went down to NZ this year for one purpose: to win the World Heli Challenge for the third time in a row. I knew I could do it, but it wouldn't be easy. Guys like Sam Smoothy and Fraser McDougall are NZ's best big-mountain skiers, and they don't go down easy.

Tell me about the crash. What happened?
Unfortunately I went down on the last air of my first run, getting caught up on some rocks and having quite the tumble. But besides a very very broken ski, I was totally fine. So I borrowed the event organizer's skis and headed back up to lay down a solid run. I was in the middle of that run, doing an air that I already did, so I knew about the rock that was in the landing area. I had studied my photos while at the start, and told myself I would air to the left of this rock (I had gone to the right of it on my first run). But unfortunately I took off just a bit too much to the right. I saw that I was going to hit the rock about halfway through the air.

Ouch. What'd you break?
I have a tib/fib fracture in my left leg. I also have a fracture in my heel and talus bones in my right ankle.

When does the doctor say you'll be back on snow?
I have not yet had surgery, just the application of an external fixator on the broken leg. I will leave NZ on Sunday and head back to Aspen. There I will get surgery. If I had to guess I would say Jan. 1. Wait, I mean I will be back on snow Jan. 1. You've got to be positive!

How are you flying home with a broken leg?
It ain't going to be easy, that's for sure. But luckily my brother in law is flying back with me. I'm in business class across the Pacific, which will be the toughest leg (heh heh, 'leg.' Insert Beavis and Butthead laugh.)

You're getting married in September. Will this injury interfere with that?
Injuries are never easy on relationships. But there's a whole lotta love between my fiancé and me. And that's all that matters.

Think you'll go back to NZ next year to reclaim your title?
It's too soon to tell, but I love the World Heli challenge. Tony Harrington has created an amazing event, filled with awesome people, helicopters, rad mountains, and such. I would love to come back, but we'll have to see.