Vision Quest

ALRIC LJUNGHAGER’S WORLD STOPPED SPINNING. Ten feet off the ground and midway through a double misty 1440, that was a problem. Taking a break from his head coaching duties at the freeski summer camp he had helped develop outside Stockholm, Sweden, he had launched from the trampoline toward a pile of soft mattresses. Yet, suddenly, his once-arching path took on a more anvil-drop trajectory. That is, straight down.

The crunch of vertebrae pile-driving vertebrae was audible. Ljunghager knew as soon as he hit the ground.

“My neck is broken!” He yelled. “Somebody call the ambulance!”

His fellow camp counselors fumbled with their phones as Ljunghager’s screaming girlfriend and pro skier Lucas Stal-Madison rushed to his side. Stal-Madison grabbed Ljunghager’s hand. The two had become close at the camp, and now his grip was keeping Ljunghager alert as the sunny July afternoon started to fade. This was 2014 and the 25-year-old could feel the sensation in his body slipping away—the ski career he had built going with it.

A few days later, Ljunghager woke up in Sunderby Hospital. The feeling was back in his feet and hands, but he had a fused line of flesh down his spine that will never fade. He didn’t need the doctors to tell him he would never ski like before. They told him anyway.

“I had always been scared of this happening, and suddenly I couldn’t go back in time,” he says. “I had to appreciate where I was at.”

That appreciation was hard to find in a dense forest of rehab and days confined to his childhood bedroom. Days turned into months and

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