Fleischer will pass on season start

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VAIL, CO (USST report) — Downhiller Chad Fleischer (Vail, CO), recovering from another knee operation during the preseason, said Monday night he hasn't given up on skiing this winter but wouldn't do any racing unless he's 100 percent healthy.

"I have no plans to be in the starting gate until I'm ready for the podium again," Fleischer said. "Our primary goal is to be ready for what really counts and that's 2006 (Olympics in Torino, Italy). If this is a rebuilding year, so be it."

Fleischer tore all ligaments and tendons in his right knee and shattered his kneecap in a training crash last January before the Lauberhorn in Wengen, Switzerland. He underwent a fourth operation in early September, he said, to further repair the knee.

His original goal was to be on skis by early November "but, realistically, I'm past that (timeframe) now. I'm taking it day by day."

Men's downhill Head Coach John McBride said if Fleischer gets in any race this winter, "that'll be a total bonus. My goal is to have him 100 percent ready to go, fully healthy, by the start of the 2003-2004 season. Anything this winter would be a bonus…but we're not going to rush it."

Fleischer, 30, a two-time Olympian and two-time U.S. champion, has a two-a-day rehab schedule, including about two hours five mornings a week and then afternoon sessions in keeping with his U.S. Ski Team training plan. "I have session for the docs, one for me. I'm around 220, 221 (pounds). I've put some muscle mass on my upper body, made some strength gains…

"The sooner I can get out there and be healthy, the better it'll be but I'm also not willing to sacrifice my leg and physical health and well-being for the rest of my life," he said. "John-o (McBride) and Jesse (Hunt, U.S. alpine director) and Dr. (Richard) Steadman and JA (John Atkins) and I are agreed on that. They're well aware I want to be back, but I want to be fully healthy first."

He added, "This has been pretty gnarly. It's testing my patience to the fullest."