Stale Sandbech: Back in the Game

After an injury-filled 2016, Stale Sandbech is coming back with healthy knees and a renewed focus for X Games Aspen 2017.

At X Games Oslo 2016, Norwegian Stale Sandbech failed to make the Big Air Final for the first time in six X Games starts. The four-time X Games medalist wasn't at the top of his game -- he was hampered by visible knee pain. A pain that would take him on an eight-month journey of repair and recovery that included three separate surgeries.

In May 2016, Sandbech had surgery on both knees. Doctors removed a piece of floating bone in his right knee and did a meniscal repair on his left. His right knee recovered quickly, while the left required six weeks on crutches and four months of rehabilitation work. When he returned to snow in the fall, Sandbech could feel that something just wasn't right with the left. "When I was done with the rehab and tried to snowboard again my knee just collapsed," he says. He went back under the knife in November, and doctors cut out some pieces of meniscus that hadn't healed properly.

Lil night line on our way down to the @xgamesnorway slope course with @torgeirbergrem 🍭 @rk1snow

A post shared by Stale Sandbech (@stalesandbech) on

Stale returned to competition in January, and he had an impressive showing at X Games Aspen despite feeling as though he wasn't quite recovered. "My knees feel 100 percent," he said at practice in Aspen, "I just need to get my head and body used to flipping and spinning again." It didn't seem to take him long -- he finished fourth in Slopestyle with a strong run that included a backside triple cork 1440. He may well have medaled if not for almost going "in the cabbage" (to quote analyst Craig McMorris) on his first jump.

Since Aspen, Stale has been hitting the contest circuit hard. "I've been really busy going contest to contest, trying to snowboard and get all my tricks back and maybe even learn some new ones," he says. "It's been hard to get as much riding as I hoped because of bad weather days and going from contest straight to contest, but I was starting to feel pretty good at X Games Aspen and the more I ride the better I feel."

Though he considers himself to be "back in the game," one of snowboarding's most talented and stylish contenders is still looking for this first podium finish this season. He'll have another chance in front of the home-country fans at X Games Norway, where he's slated to compete in both Big Air and Slopestyle. Of X Games moving north from Oslo to Hafjell, Stale says, "I am really excited. I prefer riding in the mountains and it makes it possible to do the Slopestyle event, which is my favorite."

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