The injured knee that Julia Murray skied on during the two biggest moments of her career is also the reason why the Whistler native has retired from racing at age 23.
Following a full season away from the Canadian ski cross team to recover from her second major knee surgery since the Olympics, Murray announced Friday (June 1) that she'll quit the sport rather than risk further serious injury.
"Talking to my surgeons and my coach, it's definitely the best decision," Murray told The Question on Friday. "It's tough because it's kind of a forced one, but at the same time it's more important for me to have my knee for the rest of life instead of just another couple of years of pounding on it to get a podium or two."
Friday's announcement came as a surprise, given both Murray's age and the fact that she's always overcome her injured left knee in the past.
When Murray raced in the sport's Olympic debut in 2010, she placed 12th despite sustaining serious ligament damage just a month prior, wearing a specially fitted knee brace to compete on home soil. When she won a silver medal at the 2011 FIS World Ski Championships in Deer Valley, Utah, it was unknown at the time that she was skiing with a torn left ACL, plus cartilage and meniscus damage.
That would be the second-last race of her career. When the extent of her injuries were discovered two weeks later, Murray underwent a second full reconstruction of her ACL and microfracture surgery - the drilling of 37 small holes in her tibia plateau - to repair cartilage.
As Murray took the 2011-'12 season off to heal, the cartilage did not grow in as hoped. Murray said the joint still "doesn't feel like a normal knee" and specialists advised against her continuing her career.
"It's just not really that solid for going off huge jumps anymore," she said. "But I'm going to stay active. I'm not going to be one of those retired athletes that just doesn't do anything."
Murray became the third Whistler resident to leave the Canadian ski cross team in a three-week span, though she said longtime partner Davey Barr's decision to also retire this year had no impact on her own. Whistler's Stan Rey chose to switch his focus to freeskiing while Quesnel's Brian Bennett also retired.
Murray, the daughter of late Crazy Canuck downhiller Dave Murray and former freestyle ski world champ Stephanie Sloan, ends her career with three World Cup podiums on top of her world championship silver. She also contributed to another big victory 10 years ago - Vancouver and Whistler's Olympic bid - speaking as a young teenager in front of the prime minister and International Olympic Committee officials about her dream of competing on her father's run in the Games.
Olympic champ Ashleigh McIvor said Murray's positive attitude and easygoing nature was always a welcome addition to the national team.
"I don't think I've ever heard Julia complain about anything, even while racing the Olympics with a blown knee," McIvor said in a release. "Julia is one of those girls who has everything going for her; she's gorgeous, fun, smart and naturally good at everything she does. I have no doubt that she will have success in whatever she puts her mind to next, just as she has in our sport."
Murray said she'll miss the travel and great people that come with racing on the World Cup tour.
"The whole experience was totally worth it," Murray said of her career. "I had a ton of fun doing it, met a lot of awesome people who shaped me into the person I am today."
Murray didn't get on snow once during the past winter as she recovered but spent the time studying at Capliano University. She intends to pursue a career in communications and get back into skiing in a different capacity.
"I haven't quite figured it out but I'd love to do some private coaching, or maybe get involved with Dave Murray Camps or something along those lines," she said. "But I'd also like to do some more freeskiing and just get out with local photographers and have fun with that."