Broken Ribs Can't Stop Seattle Skier's Drive To Compete In Winter Olympics

Jan 28, 2014

It's every Olympic athlete's worst nightmare. After years of preparing, training and fundraising, an accident just weeks before the Olympic Games derailed everything for Roberto Carcelen of Seattle.  

But the cross-country skier insists on competing at the Sochi Olympics despite a doctor's advice not to.

In 2010, Carcelen was the first athlete from his native Peru to ever compete in the Winter Olympics. This month, the Seattle-based e-commerce consultant was in the Austrian Alps training for his second Winter Games when he lost control on a narrow, icy descent. The ski crash left him with one broken rib, several more cracked ribs and contusions. 

At the emergency room in Innsbruck last week, a doctor delivered devastating news.

"He told me, 'I'm really sorry, but you're not going to be able to race in the Olympics,’” Carcelen said.

The Austrian doctor recommended two to three months of rest to let Carcelen's rib cage heal. But the date for the men's 15-kilometer cross-country ski event in Sochi is less than three weeks away, Feb. 14 to be precise.

"I kind of had an emotional crisis. I'm thinking, 'This is it. All the work that I've been doing, all the people inspired by this story, everything is going down the drain,’” Carcelen said.

Carcelen stewed about it, and is now determined to race despite his injuries.

"I need the show the rest of the world and many lives out there that, you know, sometimes there are hard times to get success. You need to complete your goals. Don't lose your focus. Of course, it is going to be painful, but I think I can pull it off,” Carcelen said.

When asked about the risk of failing a drug test due to painkillers, Carcelen says he's not taking medicine even though he hurts badly. 

At age 43, Carcelen is the oldest of the 25 athletes from Washington, Oregon and Idaho headed to Sochi. The Peruvian-American dual national will again walk into the Olympic stadium carrying Peru's flag.