TJ Schiller's motivating force

Nate Abbott/ESPN Action Sports

Former Winter X Slopestyle gold medalist TJ Schiller didn't compete last year due to a knee injury.

The freeskiing competition scene spun a little slower without Canadian TJ Schiller in it last winter. The 2009 Winter X Slope champ missed the contest season after a December 2010 training mishap sent him under the knife for a new left ACL. This summer, several months out of surgery, Schiller got in a few light ski days on the Whistler glacier. I caught up with Schiller last week to talk about his knee, his outlook, and the motivating force of the first Olympic Slopestyle.

Give us the update on TJ Schiller. How was your summer? I heard you're skiing again.
I wouldn't call it skiing. I did five days up on the [Whistler] glacier to keep my sanity. I was only five months out of surgery. When I went up there, I just filmed the boys a little bit, got some turns in, did a little bit of skinning—mainly, I've been trying to focus on rehab and getting stronger, because it's not like I forgot how to ski. I might go to New Zealand in October for some late spring skiing there. Take some photos and get some tricks back before our season hits. I guess the major focus right now is getting really, really strong so I can last through the whole season and my knee won't be a question come Dew Tour or Winter X Games.

It seems like I had the same conversation with you a few years ago, when you were recovering from your first ACL surgery. You've been cautious both times you've been through it.
Yeah, there's really no point in trying to come back early, especially when you don't have to be ready for the first month of the season. So I'll have about nine months straight of skiing as soon as it kicks in after taking a year off. I've got to make sure that I can last that entire time and be smart about it.

Now that slopestyle is officially an Olympic sport, does that increase your motivation to get back on skis?
Absolutely. It's a goal. And any time you can set a goal, especially when you're given three years to write down how you're going to reach this goal, that's huge. And for me, with the coming season not too far away, to start thinking, 'How am I going to get into the Olympics?' it pushes my recovery. It has helped me a lot in my knee recovery. And it has allowed me to set pretty intense plans for the next three years, to get on a team, to get into some new tricks, try to figure out a nice way to get there, ski strong, and have it as my last contest.

Flip McCririck/ESPN Action Sports

"I see [the 2014 Olympics] as the perfect way to finish my competitive career," says TJ Schiller. "It's like a fairy tale end for an athlete's career."

How old will you be in 2014?
Too old. [Laughs] No, I'll be the perfect age, I'll be 28. I'll be at my utmost physical peak, in my prime.

Really, 28 is your peak in skiing? I thought it was 18.
You know, our sport is so young that we haven't really seen how well skiers' bodies hold up when proper care is being taken of them. Not to hate on the old guys, but I don't think that those guys really took it as seriously as some of us are now, with physical therapists and constant training and dryland and all that stuff. Now with the Olympics here, those resources are available, I'm taking advantage of them right now. I think that that's going to make us into, well, Olympians, real athletes. I feel like I've been pretending to be an athlete for the last few years. I've got the next three to actually be one.

Does Canada have a slopestyle coach yet?
I'm not too sure. When they spoke to us about a coach, we said, 'We don't need a coach, we need a team manager. We need somebody that knows how to use a video camera to film us for video review, and we need someone to kind of boss us around and make sure we're where we need to be.' I think it's been kind of an eye-opener for the Canadian guys, at least, and probably for the FIS, to hear that.

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