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Sprunger targets Vancouver for hockey return

Swiss ice hockey player Julien Sprunger said on Friday he wants to return to competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

This content was published on August 14, 2009 - 17:09

Sprunger skated for the first time this week since suffering a serious neck injury in a game against the United States at the world championships in Switzerland in May.

The Fribourg-Gotteron player required surgery to graft bone and fix a prosthesis between vertebrae in his neck to protect his spinal cord after he was sent crashing into the boards on May 4.

"I surprised myself," Sprunger said in an interview with the tabloid Le Matin, published on Friday. "I'm still forbidden to make contact but the important thing is that I'm back on the ice."

Sprunger, 23, says he does not recall the hit by US forward David Backes, who checked the Sprunger as the Swiss rose to his feet, slamming the back of his head into boards.

"I also heard that he doesn't regret his action. I found that a little hard to swallow, but it's his decision," Sprunger said. "If I have to meet him again one day I'm not going after revenge. I'll be smarter than him."

"Because I lost consciousness I don't remember the impact. But I don't have nightmares every night," he said.

"I was lucky. For four or five minutes on the ice, I was quadriplegic. It was really horrible. In my head, when I could not move my legs and my arms, I saw myself in a wheelchair. I panicked a little."

Backes was ejected from the game, which Switzerland won 4-3 in overtime, though it needed to win in regulation to avoid elimination.

Sprunger said he had not been contacted by Backes, a St. Louis Blues forward.

Sprunger's doctors have told him he could play in the Swiss league by December, two months before the Olympic tournament begins February 16.

"I'm also dreaming of the Vancouver Games, it's a childhood dream," the forward said.

The US and Switzerland will meet in the opening match at the Vancouver games.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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