Bahrke jumps from bumps to beans
February 1, 2008
In the midst of all the recent snow, a two-legged blizzard returns to Park City this week during the Visa Freestyle International: moguls skier Shannon Bahrke, who conquered Deer Valley’s Champion course for an Olympic silver medal in 2002, a World Championships bronze medal in 2003 and a World Cup victory last year.
But she won’t be competing. Bahrke tore her left anterior cruciate ligament before Christmas while training for the season-opening moguls event in Tignes, France
As usual, Bahrke – who makes the Energizer Bunny look like a couch potato – has more than one thing on her agenda. She’s looking to reconnect with her teammates on the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, see her international pals…and quietly introduce her newest quest – Bahrke beans.
Bahrke beans? Yep, as in coffee beans.
While rehabbing her knee, which matches the surgery on her right knee three years ago, Bahrke and her boyfriend began working on a project they hadn’t had time for until the injury: Silver Bean Coffee. The silver, of course, plays off her Olympic medal.
"I thought that would be part of the legacy of that medal. It was special," she said.
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"We’ve been sitting here doing research. It’s been a long time coming. Silver Bean Coffee will be only in souvenir shops and we’d like to get it into ski shops, in airports and any place skiers and people who love coffee will find it."
She’s not looking at going up against $tarbuck$ or Newman’s Own. "We’re buying pre-roasted beans and eventually we expect to be roasters, but that’s expensive, so we’re starting this way," Bahrke explained. "This is exciting, and maybe the injury is a blessing in disguise."
Not that she’s looking at retiring and plunging fulltime into coffee beans, but it does get her started on a post-competition career.
"We’re going for a different niche. A lot of people own coffee shops and they sell coffee wholesale. We’re selling this more as a souvenir. Take home our Powderhound Blend, or one of our other blends. Maybe our Alpine Meadows blend…
"I love skiing and love coffee, and i want to share that with our customers." She also hopes to do certain blends for individual athletes – alpine, freestyle, or maybe even specific athletes. "A portion would go to the charity of their choice. It’s sometimes tough to do things for charity, so this would be a good way to do it," she said.
As much fun as the new coffee bean venture is, Bahrke doesn’t kid herself: this is simply something to keep her busy while she recuperates from that ACL surgery. She’s planning on skiing, not retiring.
Bahrke, 27, had toyed with the idea of retirement after the 2006 Olympic season. She’d had a string of frustrations – after her Olympic medal in ’02, her Worlds medal in ’03 and the World Cup moguls title in ’03, she had a bad streak. Bahrke broke her jaw in 2004 when she slammed down on a ski pole while barreling through a moguls field; she broke her jaw and lost the rest of the season. She returned in ’05 but tore her right ACL.
She was back for the 2006 Olympics, but it was a frustrating winter. She mulled retirement, but vetoed the thought. Bahrke wasn’t, if she could help it, going to quit because of injury. She wanted to pick her retirement announcement, not give in to surgery and call it quits.
"I definitely am coming back. I want to go out on my terms, not through some injury. I know I can be No. 1 again. I have that faith in myself and I want to prove it to everyone," she said.
One key element in her quick early recovery, she said, has been a device, which uses distributes cold and compression to her knee, speeding recovery. The Game Ready system was provided by the U.S. Ski Team Sport Medicine Department for two weeks "and it’s been unbelievable. My swelling is about one-tenth of what it was last time, and it’s enabled me to start recuperating faster," Bahrke said.
"I strapped it over my brace and it compresses and circulates ice over and around my knee while I’m sitting and even while I’m sleeping. The Ski Team bought two of these expensive machines and I got one for two weeks, which was tremendous," she said.
"It decreased the swelling, which is natural after surgery, and it’s helped me get back my range of motion quicker. It’s let me get my [leg] extension quicker. It’s really amazing."
"That’s been good," Bahrke said, "but I also know it’s going to be six months before the healing really happens. It’s not going to get me back on skis faster because six months is the healing time for an ACL, and that’s the way it is. But I’m not losing a lot of muscle mass.
"I haven’t had to start from Square-1; maybe it’s Square-2 or Square-4."
She laughed as she recalled how she used to think she wasn’t "a real moguls skier" because she hadn’t had knee surgery. However, with surgery on both knees in the last three years, Bahrke said, "Now I’ve got bionic knees. I’ll be even stronger than ever."