February 16, 2014

Miller, during a training run prior to the downhill.     Photo: Luca Bruno/Associated Press

Superhero Performance In Super-G

Weibrecht and Miller win medals

At least 15 years ago, somebody told me about a ski-racing prodigy who could produce unbelievable  angulation that allowed him to carve incredibly sharp and precise turns. They weren’t talking about Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn, or Julia Mancuso. They were talking about Andrew Weibrecht, a skier who grew up shredding the icy slopes of Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid, New York, his hometown.

But until the Vancouver Olympics, where he took bronze in the Super-G, Weibrecht (whose nickname is Warhorse, due to his aggressive racing style), really hadn’t done much as a ski racer, only scoring one tenth-place finish on the World Cup tour, ski racing’s elite circuit.

After Vancouver, Weibrecht didn’t do much either. He suffered through multiple injuries and surgeries, and was only able to scrap together one other tenth place finish on the World Cup tour. That led to him being demoted to the US Ski Team’s “B Team,” a tier of the team that’s not funded. In other words, this year Weibrecht was forced to raise money to pay for his own training and racing.

All that said, his silver medal in the Sochi Super-G wasn’t just improbable—it could end up being the most remarkable feat of this Olympic Games. Not only has Weibrecht been injured and underachieved, he admitted to not sleeping well this week and (naturally) not feeling confident entering the race, and started twenty-ninth, when the course was getting slushy toward the bottom, making it slower. Most people (including me) thought the podium had been decided.

But some people just shine in the Olympics (See: Mancuso, Julia), and Weibrecht skied a perfect race to pick up his second Olympic medal. If you’re keeping count, that’s the same number of medals that Lindsey Vonn has won.

Not lost in all this, of course, is the fact that Bode Miller tied Canadian Jan Hudec for bronze. We've already expressed how we feel about ties in ski racing, but Miller fans are grateful they exist. If ski races were determined by the thousandth of a second, we might be talking about how Miller narrowly missed out on his sixth Olympic medal, a record among American ski racers.

People expect Bode Miller to win gold. But after taking last year off, and, at 36, the oldest ski racer in Sochi, it’s amazing that Miller is even competing in the Olympics. For Miller to win bronze is nearly as remarkable as Weibrecht winning silver.

There’s still more races to come. Ted Ligety will be the favorite to win the giant slalom and Mikaela Shiffrin should win the women’s slalom. But it’s hard to imagine that those races will match the drama of the men’s Super-G.

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