Injuries cost two US skiers their first shot at Olympic glory but led them to each other

David Wharton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Olympics

Freestyle halfpipe is much like its counterpart in snowboarding, except it's done on skis. Competitors twist and turn through a series of tricks, and are judged by complexity and amplitude.

Winning a string of X Games medals as a teen, Yater-Wallace was on course for stardom, his slightly unruly hair and laid-back demeanor a perfect fit for a young sport.

But just like Hendrickson, he was injured shortly before the Olympics, suffering a collapsed lung and then broken ribs. Sochi was a letdown as he failed to make the final.

Afterward, he and Hendrickson commiserated over pizza -- their first date.

"Everybody thought both of us would win," he says.

Back home, the troubles continued. Hendrickson re-injured her knee and, in the winter of 2015, Yater-Wallace began feeling abdominal pain. The discomfort landed him in a hospital, where tests revealed that a form of Streptococcus had infected his gallbladder and caused an abscess on his liver.

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His health quickly deteriorated, prompting doctors to place him in a medically induced coma for more than a week. Hendrickson stayed at his bedside in intensive care, sleeping in the room some nights.

At one point, a nurse suggested they keep immediate family on call.

"Watching him in a hospital bed almost die for eight days is pretty much the worst thing you can imagine," she says.

When his condition finally stabilized, she checked herself in for knee surgery.


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