War Horse For Different Courses - Vancouver, Now Sochi For Lake Placid's Andrew Weibrecht
Sochi, Russia — All the injuries, surgeries, sickness, training interruptions, frustrations and equipment changes came rushing out of Andrew Weibrecht Sunday, Feb. 16. The initial, physical outpouring came in the run of his life down the super-G course at Rosa Khutor.
The emotional release occurred moments after crossing the finish line with an Olympic silver medal behind Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud.
“It’s been a difficult four years,” Weibrecht reflected afterward. “You can only be beat down so many times before you start to look at what you’re doing. I didn’t know how many more beat downs I could take. Today is an affirmation of all the work I’ve done and it really shows me that what I’ve done is worth it and I can compete at this level.”
Four surgeries in four years, caused by a hard-charging style that lead to his knick name War Horse, affected Weibrecht’s attitude and training.
The Lake Placid born and raised ski racer, who trained with the New York Ski Educational Foundation at Whiteface Mountain, wound up .30 of a second from Jansrud, and in front of co-bronze medalists Bode Miller and Canadian Jan Hudec.
Given the fact that he had nothing resembling a World Cup podium result on his resume – two 10th places are his career bests – he was the forgotten Vancouver Olympic bronze medal winner in this event. Weibrecht was dropped to the B team this season and lost some funding. That was old news, however, after spending few days training giant slalom in Austria with Ted Ligety earlier in the month.
“Really in the last month my skiing’s turned on again and I’ve figured things out,” Weibrecht said to the gathered media. “I started training quite a bit faster. Today I wasn’t pleased with my start number, but I made a promise to myself last night that I wasn’t going to let that affect how I raced or my mood or outlook. Today was about putting down a solid run that I could be proud of…..This is probably the most emotional day of ski racing I’ve ever had.”
Same could be said of the observers who wandered around the finish area on race day considering the greatest irony of the super-G seemed to be that no one gave Weibrecht a chance of medaling, yet everyone was convinced that the race would not be over until he skied. Jansrud, Miller and Hudec had already negotiated the course and awaited.
"With Andrew at the start, I was like, 'There's a good chance he wins this run right now,'" said Miller, who took his sixth Olympic medal. Miller was on point, for as soon as his teammate accelerated through the initial steeps, no one’s time was safe.
Truth be told, Weibrecht, despite all of the above-mentioned issues, and a course that Miller said, “was running about .70 slower than when we ran,” had the gold medal in his hand, despite skiing from the number 29 position.
Of Weibrecht’s capabilities Miller and Ligety concur that for 20-30 seconds of every race he is the best in the world. On Sunday Weibrecht stretched that to the full 1 minute, 18.44 second and shocked the masses.
At the 19 second split he was already .30 ahead of the Norwegian. The large venue audience now came alive, and through the ensuing intermediate times he was also in the green, indicative of the leading time.
Only softening conditions at the end of the Krasnaya Polyana track kept Weibrecht from the ultimate achievement in ski racing. Yet his second career medal gave the compact blonde racer reason to enjoy this moment, while looking at a bright future.
“It was a tough four years since Vancouver,” reflected Weibrecht reflected afterward. “From that it’s been a snowball of stuff that’s happened physically that affected me mentally. I knew that I had done a lot of really good skiing, and I’ve been fast, but was unable to do it in races. Without that belief of actually doing it one time it’s hard to believe that you can do it. This is really a good first step for me moving forward.”
The second step will be to address a conversation he had with his father, Ed, immediately after the race, telling his dad that now he could afford a car.
“I drive a truck, but my wife doesn’t have a car anymore,” revealed Andrew, a most humble double Olympic medalist, whose roots come from the Adirondack woods and rivers that provide him and his dog, Fie, comfort and energy.
Of his newfound celebrity, Weibrecht was asked by E! network if any A-listers had tweeted him. "I've had such incredible support from so many people in Lake Placid,” he commented. “I don't think any of them are celebrities, but they'd rate higher anyway. This is incredibly special for me and for my hometown."
As word spread around Lake Placid in the early morning hours, the village came alive with jubilation. First it occurred, predictably, in the virtual stratosphere, and later, it became social at Lake Placid’s Cottage Café, part of the resort hotel owned by the Weibrecht family.
A 5 p.m. toast was led by wife Denja, followed by the distribution of copious amounts of War Horse, the Sierra Nevada-Ubu Ale combination concocted by the pub after Andrew’s Vancouver success.
Now pressed with a silver medal offering, The Cottage created the Silver Medalist, a margarita derivative.
With the two beverages on center stage, the party started. And similar to the beginning of the day at the top of a super-G course 7,000 miles away, the spirits and the emotion poured well into the night.
Photos: Top — Andrew Weibrecht with his silver medal (Doug Haney/USST); Lower left — super G course at Sochi Olympics (Sandy Caligiore)