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Andrew Weibrecht on the podium Sunday in Sochi. Photo: © Nancie Battaglia
Andrew Weibrecht on the podium Sunday in Sochi. Photo: © Nancie Battaglia

Weibrecht's silver upset sparks celebrations

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Andrew Weibrecht from Lake Placid is the latest American star for these Olympic Games in Sochi.

Following his silver medal win yesterday in the Alpine Super-G race, Weibrecht is making the rounds of the morning TV shows today, with appearances on Good Morning America and the Today Show.

It's a shocking, and wonderful, outcome for a skier who struggled over the last four years. His win also sparked celebrations in Sochi and Lake Placid.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Weibrecht reacts with emotion after seeing that he had claimed the #2 spot in the men's Super G.  Photo: © Nancie Battaglia
Weibrecht reacts with emotion after seeing that he had claimed the #2 spot in the men's Super G. Photo: © Nancie Battaglia
The truth about Andrew Weibrecht is that four years ago in Vancouver, nobody expected him to reach the podium.

Weibrecht doesn't look like a classic downhill skier, he's shorter, stockier. But he knocked out one amazing run in Vancouver that boosted him to a bronze medal.

It was a beautiful moment, lightning fast. But after the last Olympics, American alpine ski coach Sasha Rearick watched Weibrecht fade away.

"The very next race he hurt his shoulder. Had to get surgery so he missed the next season—has struggled in downhill."

Over the four years that followed on the world cup circuit, Weibrecht won exactly—nothing. He struggled with his health, fighting a mysterious, lingering illness. He had problems with his equipment.

For a time he was dropped down to America's B-team, which meant he had to pay for his own travel and expenses.

When I met with Weibrecht in Lake Placid just before Sochi, it wasn't even clear that he would make the Olympic team. He sounded bummed.

I really needed a result to remind me that I'm capable of this and I belong here.
"There's you know times where it's not much fun. Being sick in Europe for a month wasn't that fun. I think the good times outweigh the bad times."

Before arriving at Sochi, Weibrecht, who's 28 years old, retreated to Austria for some final, focused training. But there was still no sign that he had any shot at another medal.

He showed up in Russia late, withdrawing from one event. Then, in his first alpine race last week, he wiped out, sprawling flat on his belly.

"I just kind of hooked my tip on a gate and then I was sliding super quick. All of a sudden I was in, then I was out."

That moment seemed symbolic of a one-hit-wonder career, destined to end with a whimper rather than a bang.

On his own Facebook page, Weibrcht himself seemed resigned, calling his bronze-medal run four years ago his "last great race."

Weibrecht's run drew acclaim from other skiers, including Bode Miller, who claimed bronze.  Photo:  © Nancie Battaglia
Weibrecht's run drew acclaim from other skiers, including Bode Miller, who claimed bronze. Photo: © Nancie Battaglia
Then, on the Super-G slope yesterday Sochi, Weibrecht seemed to wake up, slicing a line that was very close to technically perfect.

Here he is speaking right after after claiming the silver.

"This is probably the most emotional day of ski racing I've ever had. All the issues and troubles I've had, to come and be able to have a really strong result like this, dealing through all the hard times, that's worth it and it all makes sense."

Weibrecht acknowledged that the years of struggle very nearly wore him down.

"There's only so many times you can be kicked before you really start to feel it," he said.

"I really needed a result to remind me that I'm capable of this and I belong here."

Standing in a scrum of reporters, the US coach, Sasha Rearick, seemed as flabbergasted as anyone to have Andrew Weibrecht standing on that podium – having won medals two Olympics in a row.

"There was a coach from another team who said he's built like a wombat. And I said let's let that wombat out of his cage—and I haven't seen him out of his cage in a long time."

In this race, Weibrecht edged out alpine ski icon Bode Miller, who finished in third. Miller says he knew Weibrecht had a real shot.

Image above: Cartoonist Marquil shows Andrew Weibrecht (nicknamed Warhorse) as he wins silver in Sochi. The motto translates "I attack the mountain."

"When Andrew was in the gate, I said, there's a good chance he wins the race right now and I wasn't kidding."

Miller says it shouldn't be a huge surprise that the high-intensity Olympic stage brings out the best in Weibrecht.

"He's so much better than his results show. You put him in a big games, and he lets his emotion out."

Weibrecht's win sparked a huge celebration last night at the Cottage restaurant in Lake Placid, owned by Andrew's parents.

Ed Weibrecht, Andrew's dad, says he too knew that his son was capable of pulling off one more huge race.

"I actually believed that he was going to do something like that. I'm very pleased he's been able to follow his dream, follow his passion." This was an emotional moment for the Weibrecht family, and also a huge moment in the spotlight for the North Country's Olympic culture.

Speaking in Sochi, alpine coach Sasha Rearick credited skiing in the Adirondacks for developing Andrew Weibrecht's technique.

Weibrecht is only the fourth US male alpine skier to win Olympic medals in more than one Winter Games.  Photo:  © Nancie Battaglia
Weibrecht is only the fourth US male alpine skier to win Olympic medals in more than one Winter Games. Photo: © Nancie Battaglia
"He's got mad skills that he learned growing up at Whiteface," Rearick said.

Weibrecht himself, who graduated in 2003 from Northwood School in Lake Placid, told reporters that growing up in an Olympic village made moments like yesterday seem possible.

"Lake Placid just has an unbelievable Olympic aura," he said. "The Olympics are really front and center in Lake Placid's culture."

Weibrecht is now one of only four US men to have won alpine medals in more than one Olympics.

He also brings home the second Olympic medal to the North Country, with his silver joining the bronze won last week by luge sledder Erin Hamlin from Remsen.

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