How brave is Queenstown teenager Ruby Andrews?
The plucky 15-year-old freeskier last week cast aside crutches to finish fifth in the halfpipe at the Winter Youth Olympics in Switzerland.
Two days earlier she’d overshot a jump while training for the slopestyle in Leysin, badly bruising her heels after initially thinking she’d broken them.
Though she pulled out of that event, Ruby was determined to battle pain to compete in the halfpipe.
“The thought was definitely in my mind to not do it and keep my heels good, but I made it all the way there and I was, like, I better just give it a go.”
On the day the pain was so bad her coach had to help put her boots on.
Then, coming off the gondola, she clambered to the start-line on crutches, while her coach carried her skis and poles.
“Everyone was, like, are you doing? Why are you here? You shouldn’t be competing’, and I was like, one day’.”
Ruby says her feet were pretty painful when she was waiting around but, dosed up on painkillers, the pain went away as soon as she dropped in for her run, “I guess because I’m thinking about my run and what I’m doing”.
Fortunately, she qualified after just one run, then she did two competition runs, finishing a commendable fifth out of eight girls.
“I just didn’t go as high as I usually would, as I was hoping not to hurt [my heels] any more than I already had.
“[It was] definitely not the best skiing I’ve done, but I was just stoked to land a run, I guess.”
Needing to recover, Ruby sat out the big air event the following day.
“It was hard to watch the girls compete because I would have loved to be there.”
Ruby’s now at Copper Mountain, in the United States, preparing to hopefully compete in a Winter Dew Tour event next week, then her first World Cup in Calgary, Canada, the following week.
She says her heels are getting better every day – “I can walk on them now, and ski on them” – but she still doesn’t want to put too much impact on them.