After spending the winter of 2019-20 sidelined, Mollie Jepsen constantly envisioned what her return to competition would look like.
Ultimately, it couldn't have been much better as the 20-year-old Whistler Mountain Ski Club alum opened the International Paralympic Committee Para Alpine World Cup season in Veysonnaz, Switzerland with four podium appearances in five races.
Jepsen, who attends Quest University, finished first in three of the races, including in her season debut in the women's standing super-G on Jan. 8.
"I've spent a lot of time off in the past five years because of different injuries and in the back of my mind, it's always a dream of mine—I want to win my first race back," she said. "I wanted to show that I was back and that I was healthy."
After the win, Jepsen said she was actually a little bit jittery in the next day's race, also a super-G, in which she placed second. She rebounded, however, with a super-G win on Jan. 10 and giant slalom win on Jan. 11.
"I had a mistake, for sure, in the second day's super-G when I came second," she said. "I was just a little bit more nervous because I won my first race back. It's high standards, high stakes, but after that, I got back in the flow and just kept pushing."
Jepsen felt at home in Veysonnaz, likening the hills there to what she experiences here in Whistler, adding that the conditions were perfect with a week of bluebird days.
Jepsen missed all of last season following a Crohn's disease diagnosis, but after learning how to live with the condition, is feeling strong entering this year.
"At our first big training camp after Korea after the Games, in September, I came home very sick and actually ended up being in the hospital for awhile," she said.
"It runs in my family. It wasn't a huge shock, but it's definitely been something I've been dealing with for a very long time so the diagnosis was very positive for me, knowing what was up and knowing how to control it now."
Jepsen attempted a comeback in December of 2018, but was still weak and opted to take the rest of the season off, working with doctors at St. Paul's Hospital and skiing when possible.
Part of the disease management involved getting a handle on stress, which was a major focus for Jepsen during her time away.
"Over the last year, I focused on getting control of my stress levels, getting control of my overall nervousness on race day," she said. "I had a very different kind of approach than I'd had in previous years. I was pretty antsy and could isolate myself from everyone.
"During this series, I was having fun, started messing around with my teammates and started completely having fun."
To start the season, Jepsen is feeling happy, healthy, and in control of her condition.
"It's not really affecting me anymore. This is where the stress stuff came into play, because stress levels can have big implications on diseases like Crohn's disease," she said. "I'm not really struggling with any symptoms on a day-to-day basis. I do yoga and meditation and I'm doing pretty well."
Jepsen enters this year looking to reclaim the super-G Crystal Globe she won in 2018. She has some split attention, though, as she recently completed her first semester at Quest. Though she's currently taking a variety of courses, Jepsen is currently hoping to pursue geology.
See the original story here.