By Dan Guttenplan
Amesbury native Dylan Ferguson's Olympic dream was dealt a substantial blow last Wednesday when he was hospitalized in Park City, Utah, for the second time in a span of a week.
As of yesterday, Ferguson remained hospitalized at University of Utah Hospital due to a stomach infection that stemmed from a procedure to remove his appendix Feb. 4.
Ferguson, a 21-year-old freestyle skier, has not trained since Feb. 2 and did not travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, with the rest of the U.S. team. He watched the opening ceremonies on Friday evening from his hotel room. As of Saturday, he remained connected to intravenous fluids for the fourth day in a row.
Ferguson is scheduled to compete on Feb. 22. He was unsure Saturday whether he would be able to represent his country.
"I'm taking it day by day," Ferguson said. "I don't want to get my hopes up or down. I'm trying not to think about the Olympics right now. I need to heal up and get better before I can even think about it."
Ferguson has been in contact with U.S. team coaches and teammates over the last two weeks, but they have yet to consider alternative plans if he is unable to compete. He is ranked second among American freestyle skiers, behind fellow Olympian Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, and 14th in the world. He consistently delivered the best performances of his career in Olympic qualifying events, including a career-best sixth-place finish at a World Cup event in Deer Valley, Utah, on Jan. 15. He is one of four aerial skiers to make the team, along with Peterson, Ryan St. Onge and Matt DePeters.
There is no alternate aerial skier listed on the United States roster; however, it is not unusual for the national team to have a contingency plan should one of the Olympians have to withdraw. For instance, Seabrook Olympic snowboarder Scotty Lago was told he was an alternate at the 2006 Olympic Games, but was not listed on the U.S. roster.
"I haven't talked to them about any of that," Ferguson said.
Ferguson's health issues began Feb. 2 when he was training with the Olympic freestyle ski team in Park City. He initially felt pain in the area of his appendix, prompting a visit to the hospital on Feb. 4. He was rushed to the emergency room, where he had his appendix removed before it ruptured.
Last Wednesday, he returned to the hospital when he was saddled with what he described as "a really painful feeling in my stomach." Doctors determined he had an infection and drained his stomach.
"We were supposed to be training in Park City when I got out of the hospital the first time," Ferguson said. "I wasn't able to train. I'm supposed to be at the Olympics, but I'm hooked up to IVs. That stinks, but pretty soon I should be eating and drinking."
Ferguson said he was unsure of whether he had lost weight as a result of his inability to eat or drink. On the U.S. ski team Web site, he is listed at 6 feet and 145 pounds. Doctors were unable to determine the cause of his appendix pain.
"They don't know," Ferguson said. "The appendix is weird and random. It can rupture for no good reason."
If Ferguson is able to compete in the Olympic Games, he has a chance to become only the third American since the inclusion of aerial skiing as an Olympic sport in 2002 to medal. Eric Bergoust won gold in 1998, and Joe Pack silver in 2002.
At 21, Ferguson's aerial career would appear to be far from over. He is the youngest of the four American aerial skiers. Peterson is 28, St. Onge 27 and DePeters 23.