Marcus Kleveland exploded onto the X Games scene at Aspen 2017. The precocious 17-year-old took a surprise Slopestyle gold and added silver in Big Air. He followed it up at XG Aspen 2018 with another Slopestyle gold and Big Air silver, then picked up a third silver medal in Big Air at XG Norway 2018.
Among the most whimsical, creative, playful riders snowboarding has ever seen, Marcus was starting to seem unstoppable. And then…disaster in December 2018.
“I was practicing on a transfer rail at Dew Tour that I wanted to flip out of, so I was coming in with a lot of speed, f---ed up on the takeoff, came off of the side of the rail before the transfer and just kneecapped straight into the other rail,” Marcus says of his accident. “I stood up and rode for like 10 meters, trying to pretend it was okay, then collapsed. I was on the ground, screaming so bad.”
One year after the accident, he’s sharing carnage from Dr. Tom Hackett’s operating room at the famed Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado. It’s truly gruesome, if you’re into that sort of thing.
“My right kneecap was shattered into like six or seven big pieces and a bunch of little shards,” Marcus says now. He had reconstructive surgery on the knee the same night, then spent the next 11 months rehabbing, including a three-month stint where he was living in Oslo to work with physical therapists at the Norwegian Olympic Training Center. “When I first got my knee brace off, I couldn’t bend my knee even one degree. It was completely straight, and it hurt.”
He had a second surgery in November 2019 to remove some of the scar tissue and hardware from his knee, which helped. “When they put my knee back together, they left a lot of stuff in there,” Kleveland explains. “We went back in and removed some of it from in front of the kneecap. It felt a lot better after that, for sure.”
X Games Aspen 2020 was Kleveland’s first competition since the injury. And though only the gold medal was awarded, Marcus Kleveland finished 2nd in the rankings. Kleveland did have an argument for trick of the comp with both his Run 2 and Run 3 passes (Nollie backside 1080, Cab 720 press to inverted Cab 540 hand drag). However, those weren’t enough to leapfrog Zeb Powell. It seems like his Run 4 540 to 1080 attempt may have been, but he couldn’t quite land it.
“I was so bummed I missed the first Knuckle Huck!” Kleveland said following the 2019 debut. But having him back for X Games Aspen 2020 made the second Knuckle Huck event that much more real. Yes, we’re seeing real time progression, and yes, we have Marcus Kleveland to thank for it.
Look for Marcus Kleveland to be competing in X Games Norway, March 7-8.
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