Weibrecht feeling strong going into Olympic year
LAKE PLACID — In an ideal world, every new season should bring hope and promise for good fortune and success. Especially if the previous year didn’t go very well.
That’s the approach Lake Placid native Andrew Weibrecht is taking as he heads into a winter of alpine skiing that expects to see the veteran racing in his third Olympic Winter Games.
A 16-year member of the United States Ski Team, Weibrecht struggled with a bum knee and some other assorted injuries last season, but after going under the knife and having things cleaned up in March, he’s looking to enjoy a competitive season that hopefully yields some solid results.
The biggest prize looming ahead for the “War Horse” would be an Olympic gold medal to go along with the bronze he captured in Vancouver in 2010 and his 2014 Sochi, Russia silver, which both came in the super-G.
On Thursday afternoon, Weibrecht spent a couple hours at the Olympic Museum in Lake Placid where he fielded questions and signed autographs for a steady stream of visitors who were on hand for this summer’s weekly Meet an Olympian program, which runs into August.
“Last year was pretty rough,” Weibrecht said. “I had a bunch of stuff going on with my knee so I had to kind of work through that, and then I ended up having surgery in the spring. The surgery wasn’t that bad but it was very necessary. I didn’t have any instability. I just had a lot of arthritis so they had to take out a bunch of cartilage and stuff. Pretty simple, but it really needed to be done.”
Weibrecht knew his knee issue existed from the start of the season, and said his biggest setback was being unable to train the way he needed in order to be on the top of his game.
“I didn’t have a great winter. I wasn’t really enjoying it that much because I wasn’t able to do what I like to do,” he said. “My favorite part is the training and that was the part I couldn’t do. I could go out and race kind of half speed but that was about it. It was tough, but now I’m pretty excited about how everything is feeling. I’m getting back into full training again, it feels good and everything is how it should be.”
Visitors came from near and far as they passed through the Olympic Center while vacationing in Lake Placid. One family of four, with a boy and girl, talked to Weibrecht at length, and the youngsters even had the chance to wear his coveted Olympic medals. They were the Smiths, and both kids were curious about what it’s like to be an elite skier.
One question that seemed to catch Weibrecht off guard and create a good laugh was “What do you wear under your ski suit?” With a chuckle, Weibrecht responded, “nothing.”
Another question dealt with injuries, and the Olympian answered, “Three shoulder surgeries, two ankle surgeries, one knee and some concussions.” He also threw in a broken leg as a 12-year-old, which was his only non-competitive mishap over a long alpine career.
When things are going well, Weibrecht has shown he’s one of the top speed skiers on the planet, but admitted his competitive career hasn’t always gone the way he wanted, and those multiple injuries have played a huge role. But he added it’s been a memorable run, and if it ended tomorrow, he’d still be satisfied with what he has accomplished.
“I think I’ll keep doing this as long as it makes sense with my body and my family and everything,” Weibrecht said. “It’s not something that I can go back to, so it’s nice to do it while I can. But at the same time, I feel like I’ve had a really successful career and I don’t need to necessarily hang onto it and keep doing it just to keep doing it or chase something that I haven’t found.
“There are things that I haven’t done in the sport, and I also accept that that’s life and if they don’t happen then they don’t happen,” he continued. “A big one obviously — two years ago I was in contention for the super-G title. A title is something that would be super cool to win, and just to win a World Cup would be great. I’ve been second a couple times and third so that’s something I haven’t ticked off my list, and then a gold at the Olympics would be fine too — just to round out the set I guess.”
Earlier this summer, Weibrecht spent three weeks on the snow running a ski school in Oregon with US Ski teammate Ted Ligety, and said “It felt pretty good up on the mountain.” He’ll be spending almost a month in his hometown and then it’s off to South America to kick his Olympic year training into a higher gear.
“I’ll be heady to Chile for five weeks of summer training, and then it’s Colorado and places like that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. Things are feeling good. I’m feeling strong again.”
As an American, Weibrecht said Olympic years are a little different than they would be for European skiers, although he added that won’t change the way he trains to get ready for another season on the slopes.
“For the most part, an Olympic year is just the same deal,” he said. “For us, World Cup is so important that we treat it the same way as everything else. The training doesn’t change. There’s definitely more hype and stuff around these seasons but it’s pretty much the same thing.
“But as an American, the Olympics are the only ski event that people really watch,” he continued. “My guess, you go from hundreds of thousands of viewers to all of a sudden you’re in the millions. I think that there’s quite a bit of pride around that and that kind of gets all of us excited. It’s probably different in Europe because they’re always pretty much competing in front of their whole countries. For us, the Olympics are kind of special event.”