As the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games have been and gone, a new Olympic cycle is born.

As Olympic athletes, we go from constant high intensity, performance-oriented behaviour in year four (the Olympic Year) to a raw, development, fundamental focus in year one.

It is quite a change of pace.

Whilst the high performance and focus on winning is not lost, it is a chance to reflect and rebuild ahead of the upcoming four years to the next Olympic Winter Games. 

FALLS CREEK, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 24: Australian ski cross Winter Olympic athlete Sami Kennedy-Sim poses during a portrait session on August 24, 2017 at Mount Hotham, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
FALLS CREEK, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 24: Australian ski cross Winter Olympic athlete Sami Kennedy-Sim poses during a portrait session on August 24, 2017 at Mount Hotham, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

For me personally, the change of pace is hard.

I genuinely enjoy the training that I do for my sport. It is just one part of this crazy life of an athlete that I love.

Gym, snow, sand – physical training is awesome. But as I enter year one, it is also a chance to take care of some of the curveballs life has thrown at me.

You will recall that five years ago, I suffered a small stroke, almost derailing my Olympic campaign for Sochi and changing my life forever.

As an aspiring athlete in my early 20’s, once I recovered I decided against any serious intervention and engaged in a suitable management plan, so that I could resume my athletic aspirations.

Now, five years later, it was decided that further investigation was necessary – now is the time, year one

We discovered that I had a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale).

In simpler terms – a hole in my heart.

It turns out, everyone is born with one and they close up as you grow up, but mine never closed.

Roughly 20% of the population have this condition and many go on to live a happy and normal life. What is also interesting, is that around 40% of people who have had a stroke (like me) have a PFO.

With all this information, and the timing… year one… AND a new medical management team, I decided to have my PFO surgically closed.

It sounds scary (it was!) and you automatically think… OPEN HEART SURGERY.

It wasn’t open heart surgery. Medicinal technology is so advanced now – I had a device implanted inside my heart to block my PFO and it was performed by keyhole surgery. Amazing

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Dr. Paul Roy and Dr. David Roy have looked after me so well and I am amazed at what they have done. I was sedated during my procedure, so I was awake.

I remember watching them feeding the device up my femoral vein and implanting the device. I also recall them being amazed that I was not asleep!

So far, I am still in the early stages of my recovery. I am getting better and better every day and I will be able to return to full training in no time at all. I will be on a restricted training schedule for the next few weeks.

Initially, I figured I would have two or three days off, and then get back into some easy training – BOY WAS I WRONG!

I was pretty knocked around post procedure – I managed to walk 200m from the car to a café four days later… It felt like quite the achievement!

The point of entry for the procedure has been very bruised and sore. If I did something that I was not quite ready for, such as picking up a heavy bag, I could actually feel the device in my heart.

Lesson learned. When doctors say rest, they actually mean it.

Lucky for me, I have managed to have my schedule fall in line very well, I was able to travel to Melbourne last week and receive the ‘Ski Cross Athlete of the Year’ award at the Ski and Snowboard Australia Awards night.

This week I have resumed light training, with some yoga and short, low intensity spin bike sessions.

My ‘light return to exercise’ will continue over the weekend, with a trip to Italy to watch a close friend celebrate her wedding.

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My first ever ‘holiday’ ( how good is year one!). My husband Ben has had to take care of me. Between him and our friends and family, I have been able to relax.

While it’s a scary concept, any kind of surgical intervention, I know that this has been the right decision, not only for me as an elite athlete, but for the rest of my life!

And I am so looking forward to living it!