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Andrew Weibrecht skis to a bronze medal in Vancouver in 2010.  (photo:  Wikipedia commons, photographer Kevin Pedraja)
Andrew Weibrecht skis to a bronze medal in Vancouver in 2010. (photo: Wikipedia commons, photographer Kevin Pedraja)

Bronze in hand, Weibrecht aims for Sochi

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We've begun our countdown to the winter games in Sochi Russia, which open in February.

Once again, the North Country hopes to send some of America's top athletes to the games.

Skiers and sledders and jumpers from our region are already competing around the world trying to secure a spot on Team USA.

This morning, we profile Andrew Weibrecht from Lake Placid. He scored a bronze medal four years ago at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in the Super G downhill ski race.

But as Brian Mann reports, Weibrecht has struggled in recent years with injuries and illness.

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Watch a video of Andrew Weibrecht skiing the super-G in Vancouver in 2010 and you can see how close to the edge he flies, grabbing turns on the very knife-blade of his skis, smashing past trail flags.

In the video, Weibrecht’s face is lit up as he pounds his chest at the bottom of the run.  It was a performance that grabbed him a bronze medal.

That was nearly four years ago.  A couple of weeks back, I caught up with Weibrecht in Lake Placid. 

We spoke at the Mirror Lake Inn, owned by his parents.  He grew up here, skiing and training just down the road at Whiteface Mountain.

"Really the biggest thing for me right now is to go into the World Cup season and perform there to get a spot for the [Olympic] games," he said.

The challenge for top-tier alpine skiers is to use these final weeks before the team is named to prove that they’re in Olympic shape, while also avoiding the kind of injury that can bring everything to a full stop.

It gets tricky [deciding] how much you risk with a possible crash and not risking enough and going slow
Weibrecht, who’s 27 years old, has struggled since Vancouver, with surgeries and with a nagging, mysterious illness.

"Staying health is definitely a challenge and it's been a super challenge for me the last couple of years," he said.  "I was pretty sick last season and it kind of derailed the whole year.  It gets tricky how much you risk with a possible crash and not risking enough and going slow."

Weibrecht says he’s healthy now and he also changed equipment and feels more comfortable on his skis. 

But he says it’s been tough getting back his mental edge, the clarity that allows you to commit to the instinctive, body-reflex moves that help skiers carve off fractions of seconds.

"A lot of times you get into a race and there's that little bit of hesitation and that little bit of something missing. A lot of it's a confidence thing.  When it's not right, you know immediately."

One of the things that you often hear from winter sport athletes from the North Country is that this life can be grueling.  They lose more than they win. 

They spend months on the road, living in hotel rooms, not always earning a lot of money.  There are injuries and a lot of years between the glitz and glamor of the Olympic games. 

So I put to Weibrecht the question that often lurks in the back of my mind when I talk to these young athletes who’ve spent year, and even decades, trying to get to this place.

"Is this still fun," I asked.

"Yeah, it is.  I wouldn't do it if it wasn't fun," Weibrecht said.  "There are times when it's not as much fun, but the good times outweight the bad times."

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