COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (AP) The end of a ski season usually brings another surgery for Andrew Weibrecht followed by weeks and weeks of recovery.
No operations this summer, though. Not one ache or pain, either.
It’s been ages since he’s felt this good.
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Weibrecht’s confidence is healed, too. But that’s expected, since he did capture a surprise silver in the super-G at the Sochi Olympics last February. That medal pairs nicely with his bronze from the Vancouver Games – both encased in glass and on display at his family’s resort in Lake Placid, New York.
Healthy for once heading into a season, Weibrecht chases after an omission from his portfolio – a World Cup podium finish. In 99 career starts, the hard-charging skier nicknamed ”War Horse” has yet to finish better than seventh.
”A lot of guys win World Cup races and then Olympic medals,” said the 28-year-old Weibrecht, who’s scheduled to compete in the speed events at Lake Louise, Alberta, this weekend. ”I just did it backward, that’s all.”
Then again, Weibrecht’s career hasn’t exactly taken the most conventional route, which was never more evident than in Sochi when he took the off-the-beaten path to a medal.
He started late in the field that day and was hardly considered a favorite, especially since he wasn’t skiing all that well entering the race.
Bursting out of the starting gate, he quickly noticed that all the tracks in the snow from other skiers were way higher than his intended path down the hill.
He stuck with his plan, though, and didn’t follow the crowd, finding speed in areas where others couldn’t. He finished less than a half-second behind winner Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, which pushed teammate Bode Miller and Jan Hudec of Canada down a position and into a tie for third.
”I made my plan and said, `Whatever happens, happens.’ I was going to be true to myself,” Weibrecht recounted. ”I had nothing really to lose. Because nobody really pays attention that much if you don’t do it.
”People pay attention only if you do.”
Unless your name is Bode Miller, of course.
The headlines after the race weren’t so much Weibrecht oriented as Miller driven. Not that Weibrecht minded taking a back seat to Miller after the iconic skier captured his sixth Olympic medal.
”Bode’s Bode,” Weibrecht said. ”That’s basically what it comes down to, anyway. I’ve never really sought the media attention. I do this because I love it. It’s as simple as that.”
That medal, though, represented more than just Weibrecht’s ability to shine on the biggest of stages, when the world is watching. He overcame quite a bit to achieve it: Four operations in the last four years – to fix each shoulder and ankle – losing funding from the U.S. Ski Team at one point, and not even a lock to make the roster for Sochi.
For 1 minute, 18.44 seconds, he lived up to his nickname ”War Horse,” attacking the course with unbridled fury. Just like he did that afternoon in Vancouver four years earlier, when he finished behind winner Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and runner-up Miller.
”I went in and finally had a shred of confidence in my skiing,” Weibrecht said. ”I was able to parlay that (confidence) into that run.”
The coolest thing he’s received since his Sochi success?
Easy, a trip to Hawaii. While there, he had a chance to visit with the troops as he joined fellow Olympic medalists Kelly Clark (snowboard) and Steven Holcomb (bobsled) for a goodwill event.
And the best part of his summer? Again, easy. No operations or recovery time on the couch.
”I’m so far ahead of where I have been. That’s a huge boost,” Weibrecht said. ”My body feels good and I’m not going at this halfway.”
Weibrecht was quite active this offseason, training in Park City, Utah, conducting a ski camp with Ted Ligety and spending weeks honing his technique on the slopes in New Zealand, Austria, and Chile.
All to step onto that World Cup podium. To do so wouldn’t so much to authenticate those Olympic medals as augment them. Weibrecht even had a conversation along those lines with teammate Marco Sullivan before Sochi.
”I remember saying if the one medal is all I accomplished with my career, I wouldn’t be really that satisfied with it,” Weibrecht said. ”Two medals are a lot better, but there’s still a lot to do in the sport.
”It’s motivating me to keep moving hard. I’m really looking forward to World Cup success. Because that would be a huge deal for me.”