VANCOUVER - There were tubes in Mark McMorris's nose and bruises around his left eye and cheek, but the Canadian snowboarding star was giving the thumbs-up and flashing a small smile in an Instagram photo posted Tuesday by his brother.
The Olympic bronze medallist from Regina is confined to a Vancouver hospital bed after suffering serious injuries in a crash in the B.C. backcountry over the weekend.
"Kids tough as nails," his older brother Craig wrote in his feed on the photo-sharing app. "All good news from here on out. So much love."
Cindy McMorris is at her son's side in photo, which quickly attracted thousands of likes and several hunderd comments.
The 23-year-old McMorris suffered breaks to his jaw and left arm, a ruptured spleen, a stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung when he crashed into trees while going off a jump on Saturday. He underwent two separate surgeries over the weekend to control bleeding and repair the injuries to his jaw and arm.
His brother, also an accomplished snowboarder, was with him when the accident happened.
Canadian teammate Max Parrot said snowboarders are well aware of the risks they're taking.
"We're practising an extreme sport," he said. "But there's not much you can do against a tree."
Despite McMorris's severe injuries, Canada Snowboard announced Tuesday that he and Parrot had been provisionally nominated to Canada's Olympic team.
While there is no timetable for McMorris's recovery, Canada Snowboard executive director Patrick Jarvis said the Olympic bronze medallist will have to show he's healthy before fully securing his spot for the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, that begin Feb. 9, 2018.
"What it means for Mark is that based on his recovery and his rehabilitation ... is his own desire and motivation to make the team next year," Jarvis said in a phone interview on Monday. "He would have to prove a return-to-competition readiness to ensure that he's comfortable riding again, that he's back to the level of prowess that he's used to.
"All fingers crossed and we would certainly hope that Mark is able to do that. Certainly a little too early to speculate whether that will be probable or whether it's still just in the realm of possible."
While they have been provisionally nominated for the 2018 Games through their standout performances this season, Parrot and McMorris — if he's healthy — will still have to meet a minimum performance standard at an eligible event during the 2017-18 World Cup season to secure their spots. Their nominations are also subject to approval by the Canadian Olympic Committee and the final allocation of Olympic quota spots.
McMorris won bronze in slopestyle snowboarding's Olympic debut in 2014 despite competing with broken ribs. Parrot, meanwhile, wound up fifth.
"It was a little bummer not to hop on a podium," Parrot said last week. "I was happy with my riding. If at the end of the day you tell yourself you did your best, that's all that matters."
McMorris, should he recover in time, and Parrot are considered strong medal contenders heading into 2018, especially with the big air event now included alongside slopestyle.
In big air, snowboarders launch themselves off massive jumps in order to complete their tricks, while slopestyle involves competitors going down a course that includes a number of obstacles.
"It's really cool we have big air this time," said Parrot. "It's another great chance for us to inspire more people to get into snowboarding."
McMorris won three X Games medals this season along with two World Cup Crystal Globes, one for big air and another as the overall champion.
His banner campaign came on the heels of another serious injury suffered in February 2016 when he caught an edge on a landing at an event in Los Angeles.
McMorris — who has 14 combined X Games medals in his career, including five in big air — fractured his right femur and had a metal rod surgically implanted in his thigh.
Parrot won 10 medals in 15 events this season, and has six X Games podium finishes, with three golds and two silvers in big air.
His early nomination to the Canadian team for 2018 lifts a weight off his shoulders after he qualified just two weeks before the Games in Sochi, Russia, three years ago.
"It's a little stress relief, for sure," he said. "Now I can just take that out of my head and concentrate on my training this summer."
For now, he's thinking about his friend and teammate.
"I know he's in good hands at the hospital in Vancouver," Parrot said Tuesday. "I hope he'll be back really soon."
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