By Gabby Alfveby
She was one of the best skiers in the world at the time. Cruising along the surface of the water at 80 mph, she was preparing for future competitions. Trying to get back on top of the podium.
Then she crashed, tearing her forearm muscles and sustaining a concussion.
“I had too much water speed,” Elizabeth Montavon said. “It was just too dangerous of conditions and me thinking as long as I survive it, I’ll be better.”
Montavon is a 3rd generation professional water skier who is ranked as the No. 7 professional slalom skier in the world. Montavon is a 9x national champion, 3x All American, a Pro Tour Stop Champion and a US National Team Member, to name a few of her accomplishments.
Montavon suffered a violent crash in Spring 2022 while training in adverse weather conditions.
“There’s a degree of training and adversity that’s good for you, then you know, you can do it. So when you come to an event and you have that amount of wind or that amount of rain, you can say to yourself I’ve done this before this isn’t that scary,” Montavon said. “but there is you know a point of diminishing returns where it’s just too dangerous and that day it was just too windy and it was too dangerous.”
But a year later, Montavon is back in the water on her skies, continuing to battle back, as she’s starting to make progress and looking toward future competitions. She said while it was a devastating event for her, it has also taught her something about her ability to persevere.
After the fall Montavon spent about a month rehabbing to get back to the sport she loves. Though she sustained serious injuries that day, for her it became about her perseverance over adversity. She would especially need that when she found out she was also suffering from an autoimmune disease. Montavon was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease.
“When it rains it pours, so it was two bad things at the same time as if I wasn’t already sad enough about being hurt,” Montavon said.
When Montavon first was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease she was challenged in every aspect of her life.
“I think that being patient was the hardest part. Like I said, I’m very good at doing and trying so I made all the changes but then I just kind of had to stick with them for months and trust that this process was going to work,” Montavon said.
As an athlete you’re always moving and active so being an athlete and being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease tests your discipline skills.
“It’s one of those things where you want change quickly but eating healthier, for example, for one day doesn’t change your whole-body composition for somebody who wants to maybe lose weight. And so, for me, eating less inflammatory foods and getting eight hours of sleep every night as opposed to like five or six, you know, one night of sleep is good, but you’re not going to notice the benefits unless it’s for weeks and weeks and weeks.”
Now almost a year later Montavon has a better grasp of how to cope with being an athlete while battling an autoimmune disease.
“I’m really good with it now. I have a better understanding of what my body needs from me. I thought you know as an athlete I thought if I pushed myself to the physical limit in all the ways that I could that was me trying to be the best athlete that I could be,” Montavon said.
Montavon worked with her physical therapist to overcome the adversity she faced.
“My body can only handle one sport where I move very quickly under a very heavy load and he said any cross-training that you do should not be moving quickly under heavy load,” Montavon said. ”I started wondering what areas of my life do I need to not put myself through that kind of high intensity, heavy load so that internally it’s easier on my body.”
Skiing is a demanding sport and puts a lot of wear and tear on your body so Montavon had to find ways where she could continue skiing without it being too much for her health.
“There’s no deintensifying skiing that’s always gonna be really stressful on my body,” Montatvon said. “I needed take that stress off of other places of my life and really that just came down to eliminating a lot of those daily toxins that we come into contact with really prioritizing sleep.”
Montavon sometimes slips up with taking care of her health, but she knows how to recoup and get herself back on track.
“Every once in a while I get the ratio off. I push myself a little too hard and I start to feel it. I start to get that extreme fatigue and then I just kind of bring It back in. So, it’s a new balance for me, but I feel like I’m learning it pretty well now, Montavon said.
Montavon loves her sport and continues to wake up each day dedicating herself to it.
“I think it helps me tap into my inner child a little bit in that way, you know you grow up playing outside. I really enjoyed that it still gets to be part of my day,” Montavan said. “There’s also a huge thrill component to it because it is technically an extreme sport, and you get such high speeds and water skiing has one of the highest rates of speed change in a sport in the world and I really enjoy that thrill that comes with that.”
Montavon wants to live her life to the fullest and not have any regrets.
“I think that you know when I’m on my deathbed, I don’t want to regret not trying. That’s something I say a lot,” Montavon said. “My goal with anything that I do in my life, whether it be sport or skiing or with my family is to really just become the best version of myself that I can you know to be the best wife that I can be to be the best athlete, to be the best sports professional and just see how far I can take myself and all those Avenues and as new opportunities emerge and my interests change.”