6:22 PM EDT, October 12, 2011
Nine months ago, 5-foot-tall Courtney Hicks seemed on her way to becoming the next big thing in U.S. women's figure skating.
But a bad injury means it will be next season before Hicks, 15, can build on having become the surprise junior national champion in January.
Hicks' coach, the venerable John Nicks, told me Wednesday by telephone that doctors have said the skater will be off the ice at least four months after chipping a right leg bone in Saturday's free skate at the Junior Grand Prix event in Italy.
"That means the whole season," Nicks said.
The coach said Hicks underwent surgery Wednesday and is expected to make a full recovery.
Nicks said Rob Cabry, the U.S. Figure Skating doctor at the competition, went with the skater to a hospital in Milan, where she had an x-ray.
"I saw the x-ray, and it showed a triangular piece of bone about one inch on all sides had come away (from the tibia) below the knee," Nicks said. "The doctor told me he had never really seen one like that before."
Nicks said the injury occurred on the jump, a triple flip, that opens her free skate. But the coach wondered if her two falls on jumps in the short program might have owed something to the incipient leg problem.
"She skated (the short) in a way that was not usual for her," Nicks said. "She is one of the most powerful jumpers in the sport. I had a sense that something wasn't quite right, but she didn't mention feeling any acute pain after the short program.""
Hicks, of Chino Hills, Calif., had won her first Junior Grand Prix event of the season at Brisbane, Australia in early September.
She jumped from fifth place at the novice level in 2010 to win the U.S. junior title in 2011 with the highest score since the juniors began using the Code of Points scoring system in 2006. Hicks went on to finish sixth at the World Junior Championships.
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