KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia Andrew Weibrecht shocked the world of alpine skiing yet again Sunday.
Four years after taking a surprise bronze medal in super-giant slalom at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the 28-year-old from Lake Placid, whos never found the World Cup podium outside of the Olympic games, won a silver medal in the super-G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center in the Sochi Olympics.
Weibrecht finished in 1 minute,18.44 seconds, just three-tenths of a second out of the gold medal position, which was claimed by Norways Kjetil Jansrud in 1:18.14. Weibrecht pushed the man considered the U.S.s greatest alpine skier, Bode Miller, into a tie for the bronze with Canadas Jan Hudec. Both Miller and Hudec were clocked at 1:18.67.
The finish was a flip-flop of Weibrechts and Millers results at the Vancouver games, when it was Miller who won the silver and Weibrecht the bronze in super-G
This is probably the most emotional day of ski racing Ive ever had, said Weibrecht, who has battled through injuries, illness and inconsistency over the last four years. All the issues and troubles that Ive had, to be able to have a really strong result like this, it reminds me of all the work I did to come back, that its all worth it and it all makes sense.
As he talked near the finish line, the soft-spoken Weibrecht was surrounded by a horde of reporters and news media from all across the U.S. and around the world.
This is the most shocking day in my career as a ski writer at an alpine event in seven Winter Olympics, said veteran ski racing journalist John Meyer of the Denver Post. Hes never been on a World Cup podium, and now to have two medals at super-G at the Olympics, its just, its what makes ski racing so great and so much fun that you can see that happen.
In a Facebook post before the Olympics, Weibrecht called his bronze medal run four years ago at the Whistler Creekside Resort his last great race. One month after those games, he crashed and tore the rotator cuff and labrum in his right shoulder. He also tore the anterior ligaments in his left ankle. During the 2011 World Cup season, Weibrecht tore the labrum in his left shoulder. Three days after coming back from that injury, he tore three ligaments in his right ankle. Hes had four surgeries in four years.
The last four years have been really tough because everythings been so disrupted and I havent had any continuity in my training, Weibrecht said.
His best result since the Vancouver games came in December 2011, when he took 10th place at a World Cup super-G at Beaver Creek, Colo. At one point he was moved from the A to the B team and had to pay for some of his travel expenses.
Theres been times where Ive had to evaluate whether this is what I want to do, as recently as yesterday, said Weibrecht, who did not finish in his earlier race in Sochi, the super combined. Theres only so many times you can get kicked before you really start to feel it. I try not to focus on results, but I needed a result to remind me more than anything that Im capable of this and that I belong here.
Whether Weibrecht would even get the chance to compete in another Olympics was in question right up until the day in January when the mens alpine team was announced. He competed in only four super-G races before these games, finishing 34th, 20th, 21st and 23rd.
On Saturday, race officials pushed back the start of todays super-G by an hour to 10 a.m. to give the racers a harder surface after days of warm temperatures and sunshine. Weibrecht drew a late starting position, 29th, which isnt what he wanted.
After blasting out of the starting gate, Weibrecht was ahead of Jansruds gold-medal pace by three-tenths of a second at the first split. When the scoreboard showed he was also ahead at the second and third splits, the crowd at the finish line grew louder and louder. Weibrecht lost a little bit of time on the last portion of the course, but he still skied hard and fast enough to make the podium.
I came through the finish, and I knew that I skied well, he said. I knew that I had a really good run.
As he crossed the finish line, Weibrecht looked up at the scoreboard and saw he was in second place. Overcome with emotion, he bent over and put both hands on his head, staying in that position for several seconds.