Mountain Biker Willow Koerber

In the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 31-year-old Asheville, North Carolina-based mountain biker Willow Koerber was among the country's best shots at a medal. But after ranking sixth in the World Cup, and first among Americans, in 2007, she went into an inexplicable slump early last year and failed to make the team. This summer, look for the Subaru/Gary F

Melanie Lidman

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Outside: You called last year a karmic disaster.
KOERBER: I'd never trained harder or been more focused, but there were races where I was in 30th instead of the top five. I couldn't even get out of my own way. But what was I supposed to do, throw my bike in the woods? In 2007, I tore my ACL and broke up with my boyfriend (we're now engaged), but it ended up being the best year of my career. Last year all I had to do was ride my way to the Olympics, but I froze.

How'd you manage to repair your ACL without surgery?
I would have run circles in the woods, chanting, if it meant avoiding surgery. I did Reiki, acupuncture, the VIBE machine, the Harmony Chip

Harmony Chip?
It's a rehabilitation patch that I put on right where the ACL was torn. Also, there was this thing called the ARPwave. It pulses at this perfect wavelength to loosen you up. I tried Biopulsar Reflexology also. I'm definitely a searcher.

You come from a family of athletes, right?
My whole family is pretty nuts. We all compete or race. My uncle Doug once drank an entire bottle of jalapeño sauce just to prove he could. He was sitting there frothing at the mouth, eyes burning, coughing. And we're like “Why'd you do that?” And he said, “At this moment, nothing else exists.” We totally got it.

Where should we look for you this summer?
I'm really focused on September's World Cup Championships, in Australia. The course is fitted to my style: fast, technical, powerful. You know, standing on a World Cup podium is the greatest feeling. I can't deny it. I'd like to repeat that experience.