Former world skeleton champion Noelle Pikus-Pace has a stress fracture in her right leg, the same limb that was shattered by a runaway bobsled and derailed her quest to compete for the 2006 Olympics.
It's keeping her from doing certain training exercises like sprinting, she said, but does not believe it will affect her season.
"My leg has been hurting really badly," Pikus-Pace said from her home in Eagle Mountain, Utah. "It doesn't hurt all the time. It would kind of come and go, and after I got X-rays they said it couldn't look better. But it kept hurting and hurting, so eventually, I went and got a bone scan."
That scan revealed numerous areas of stress around the rod that's holding her tibia in place, plus a stress fracture in her fibula. Doctors have advised Pikus-Pace that the rod eventually will have to be removed, and that her leg will likely be fractured again after that procedure.
With not enough time to go through surgery and recovery before team trials start in October, Pikus-Pace said she'll wait.
"This will not be a rerun of what happened last time around," Pikus-Pace said. "I feel like I can handle pain pretty well. But this had me in tears. My leg couldn't stop shaking before I went and got the scan. But I am not milking this. I'm fine. I can still do a three-mile run. There's some stuff I can't do, but I'll be fine."
Pikus-Pace was the world's top-ranked skeleton racer on Oct. 19, 2005, when her right leg was broken in a horrific crash during a training session in Calgary, Alberta. She was standing near the end of the track when a bobsled with an inexperienced driver at the controls couldn't stop in time and smashed into Pikus-Pace, sending her flying.
With her leg still broken, Pikus-Pace returned to competition three months later, trying unsuccessfully to make the Turin Olympic team.
Back at full strength a year later, she won the 2007 world title, then took the 2007-08 season off to have her first child, Lacee.
"I'm doing things to stay fit, but sprinting is too much unless I'm in a pool," Pikus-Pace said.
Sprinting is a vital part of training for skeleton athletes, who go headfirst down the same track used for bobsled and luge on thin sleds and reaching speeds that can exceed 80 mph. Skeleton runs begin with a quick dash, about 5 seconds or so, before the racer hops on the sled and starts steering his or her way through the course.
Pikus-Pace plans to retire after this season, meaning if she makes the Olympic team, the Vancouver Games will likely be the final competition of her career.