2-time Olympic medal­ist carves new life

Shanghai Daily - - SPORTS FEATURE - John Kekid Star Sports 2 CCTV 5

An­drew Weibrecht steers his pickup truck off the main drag of the Olympic vil­lage where he grew up and heads down a nar­row, wooded dirt road to wa­ter’s edge, grabs a fish­ing pole and gazes out at windswept Lake Placid, White­face Moun­tain loom­ing in the dis­tance like a gi­ant sen­tinel.

“I love time in the woods so much, whether it’s go­ing out ca­noe­ing, hik­ing, or just bush­whack­ing around with my dog,” said the two-time Olympic medal­ist in Alpine ski­ing.

“What­ever I’m do­ing in the woods just re­ally cen­ters me. It’s why I love liv­ing here. To be able to walk out the door and be out in it is pretty spe­cial.”

The man who earned the nick­name “War Horse” for his un­bri­dled fury in at­tack­ing a course — he blew out each an­kle and had surgery on both shoul­ders and a knee in his ca­reer with the US ski team — an­nounced his re­tire­ment in May af­ter nearly three decades of com­pet­i­tive ski­ing.

The tran­si­tion from the fre­netic pace of the ski sea­son into the role of hus­band to wife Denja and fa­ther to his two young daugh­ters has been seam­less.

“It’s been re­ally good. I was ready to move on to dif­fer­ent things,” said Weibrecht, who will be in­ducted into the US Ski and Snow­board Hall of Fame and Mu­seum in April next year.

“I think in that re­spect I’ve been re­ally lucky be­cause not ev­ery­body has that lux­ury where they’re ready to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. Be­ing able to spend as much time as I have with my fam­ily has been a treat.”

“It came down to two things,” Weibrecht added.

“My body took a se­ri­ous hit the last cou­ple of years. It’s not that I prob­a­bly couldn’t have gone through it phys­i­cally, but it just doesn’t re­ally make sense to me. The other part is we had an­other daugh­ter. Once we had our first daugh­ter, it was def­i­nitely a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion with me be­ing on the road and know­ing what I went through and what I missed. I re­ally didn’t want to do that a sec­ond time.”

That he made the right de­ci­sion at the age of 32 to walk away from the sport he’s loved since he was a tod­dler is ev­i­dent to those who know him best.

“I think this is the hap­pi­est I’ve seen him in a long time,” said his mom, Lisa. “It’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing.”

Weibrecht’s ca­reer on the slopes was unique.

Be­fore he earned a spot on a World Cup podium for the first time, he al­ready had won Olympic bronze at the 2010 Van­cou­ver Games and sil­ver at Sochi in 2014, both in su­per-G.

“The tim­ing of the Olympics was very for­tu­itous,” said Weibrecht, whose Olympic medal streak ended at Pyeongchang in Fe­bru­ary when he failed to fin­ish.

“Those just hap­pened to be the times that I was peak­ing in my ca­reer, for what­ever rea­son. From Sochi on for a cou­ple of years it was a great run for me.

“The things that re­ally halted my de­vel­op­ment — if I could do it again, I would just get hurt less,” he added with a laugh. “That was al­ways the lim­it­ing fac­tor. When I would get in­jured, I’d have to start the process over again. I got good at it be­cause I did it a lot. I think that hav­ing that process down so well I could have got­ten back to where I wanted to be ath­let­i­cally, but I’m just at a dif­fer­ent place in my life.”

That place is ac­tion-packed, too. Weibrecht earned his li­cense to be a guide dur­ing the sum­mer and is study­ing to com­plete the de­gree he started long ago at Dart­mouth with an eye to­ward go­ing on for an MBA.

He’s also ful­fill­ing a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion re­quire­ment by help­ing coach the Dart­mouth ski team, which makes his mom chuckle.

“I started it and went through part of the process,” Weibrecht said.

“I never went to high school that much (be­cause of ski­ing), so be­ing able to have the op­por­tu­nity to go to col­lege and see that through is some­thing per­sonal that I want to ac­com­plish. This one I want to ac­tu­ally com­plete.”

Week­ends are spent home in Lake Placid, where Lisa and hus­band Ed op­er­ate the stately Mir­ror Lake Inn, one of the sig­na­ture re­sort ho­tels in the East.

On Fri­day nights, An­drew makes s’mores for ho­tel guests on the shore of Mir­ror Lake, and by day he’s in busi­ness meet­ings and pa­trolling the din­ing room pour­ing cof­fee, just like mom and dad, as he learns the busi­ness along­side his wife.

His par­ents are thrilled.

“For us, it’s per­sonal. That’s where I grew up,” said Weibrecht, whose Olympic medals hang be­hind the front desk at the inn. “It’s my par­ents’ life work. It’s very per­sonal to them. To me, that’s re­ally cool — to be in­volved in a busi­ness that you re­ally care about on a deeper level than the spread­sheet end of it.”

“Things are dif­fer­ent now than it was when my dad started (in the 1970s), but the premise of pro­vid­ing peo­ple with a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence isn’t, and that’s what it’s all about.”

That spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence will in­clude ski­ing at White­face with guests start­ing this win­ter and, in the fu­ture, there likely will be a chance to join a two-time Olympic medal­ist on wilder­ness out­ings in the Adiron­dack Moun­tains.

“He loves be­ing a dad and doesn’t want to miss out on that,” US skier Steven Ny­man said. “And be­ing a guide I think that will put him in his el­e­ment. It could also be a good fea­ture for the fam­ily busi­ness. Go hunt­ing with the ‘War Horse!’ I would pay for that.”

The US ski team is pre­par­ing for the up­com­ing sea­son and Weibrecht fig­ures he might get the itch again when the snow flies.

“I’m sure at some point come De­cem­ber when ev­ery­body’s out at Beaver Creek, it’ll be a dif­fer­ent story and I’ll get a lit­tle bit nos­tal­gic for it,” he said. “But as far as it goes right now, I couldn’t even imag­ine be­ing in South Amer­ica (train­ing).”

“I’m go­ing to go out and ride my moun­tain bike for three hours. To­mor­row, I don’t want to do any­thing. For years it was, ‘OK, you can go ride for an hour and a half, but it’s got to be within this heart rate. To­mor­row, ride for three hours but it’s got to be re­ally low heart rate.’ You’re never re­ally hav­ing fun with it. To get the max­i­mum ben­e­fit, you’re re­ally struc­tured,” Weibrecht added.

“Now, I run as hard as I want, I go for a bike ride, and if I de­cide I want to do 45 min­utes and not any more, I go home.”

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An­drew Weibrecht crosses the fin­ish line dur­ing a men’s World Cup down­hill race, a test event for the Pyeongchang 2018 Win­ter Olympics, in Jeongseon, South Korea. — IC

Pho­tos of former US skier An­drew Weibrecht win­ning Olympic sil­ver and bronze medals hang be­hind the front desk of the Mir­ror Lake Inn in Lake Placid. — IC

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