BEAVER CREEK, Colo. - U.S. skier Andrew Weibrecht reported to the team in the worst shape of his life after the best season of his career.
Too much celebrating following a surprise super-G bronze medal at the Vancouver Olympics?
Coming off an eventful year that included an Olympic bronze medal and shoulder surgery, Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid is returning to peak condition for 2011.
(Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)
The skier nicknamed "War Horse" was forced to log more time on the couch than the course after having a ligament in his left ankle fixed and his right shoulder repaired. While mending, Weibrecht wasn't able to do much of anything, slipping out of tiptop cardio condition.
Steadily, the 24-year-old from Lake Placid has been working his way back into the form that made him a medalist. Weibrecht began his season last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta, finishing 35th in the super-G and 37th in the downhill.
Pedestrian results, but progress nonetheless.
"Definitely behind the eight ball going into summer camps," said Weibrecht, who had a solid World Cup downhill training run Tuesday at Beaver Creek. "Now, I feel awesome. I'm able to play tennis again."
And, of course, ski pain-free.
Weibrecht never really let on to his shoulder pain in the weeks leading up to Whistler, simply dealing with the discomfort the best way he could.
No way was he sitting on the sideline in his first Olympics.
"There were a couple of times where my shoulder would slip out and slip back in," Weibrecht said nonchalantly. "But it's been like that."
He turned in one of his finest performances ever on a mountain and wound up on the podium with gold medalist Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and teammate Bode Miller, who captured silver.
"It was awesome," said Weibrecht, who also finished 11th in the super-combined in Whistler. "Two of the most iconic racers of our generation and to be right there with them - it doesn't get much better."
As for changing his lifestyle, well, it hasn't.
He didn't switch equipment for more money, remaining loyal to the companies that supported him, and picked up only one new sponsor, a ski pole maker.
Even more, Weibrecht can still saunter down the streets without drawing much attention.
Although, he may receive a few more double-takes in Beaver Creek this week. It was here, on this course, that Weibrecht really arrived on the World Cup scene.
Three years ago, he attacked the Beaver Creek downhill course, teetering more on the brink of chaos than control as he plunged ahead through a snowstorm.
Weibrecht finished 10th that day, still his best showing at a World Cup event. Until the Olympics, that was his claim to fame, the race he would watch over and over to remind himself what he could accomplish if he showed no fear and simply plummeted down the slope.
That's why he enjoys competing here, in this setting. It's a place full of fond memories.
"I'm psyched, love the track," said Weibrecht, who's scheduled to be in the field for the race Friday. "It's nonstop the whole way, not any real big breaks or places where you're doing straight-up riding. You're constantly moving."
Unlike last spring, when he wasn't moving around much at all.
He was in a boot for nearly eight weeks after hurting his ankle in a fall during a race in Norway right after the Olympics. He also had the rotator cuff and labrum surgically repaired in his right shoulder.
A frustrating few months as all he could do was rest and rehab.
"I came out of that and did my testing in the spring and it was the worst shape I've been in," said Weibrecht, who also spent the down time working on his degree in earth science from Dartmouth, taking four classes. "From that point on, I was really dedicated and focused to my training."
His layoff only ignited his passion.
"To go out and do stuff went from something that was normal to something that was a treat," Weibrecht said. "It made training that much sweeter."
Weibrecht doesn't exactly have the classic downhill body. At 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds, he's shorter and stockier than most. But he insists that compact size gives him an advantage, allowing him to hold angles better and turn quicker, especially given his background in the technical events.
"We call him the bowling ball," joked Chris Brigham, the U.S. men's downhill and super-G coach. "You just throw the bowling ball down the hill and he's going to come out on the other end somewhere."
Maybe even on the podium.