Struggling for 2 years, Weibrecht still eyes Olympic medal
KITZBUEHEL, Austria — Andrew Weibrecht’s wait for another top-three result in a super-G reached the two-year mark on Friday.
But struggling with persistent knee problems and finishing 24th in the last World Cup race before the Pyeongchang Olympics haven’t dashed the American’s hopes for the games.
The racer nicknamed “The Warhorse” has twice before won a medal in an Olympic super-G after less than impressive results on the World Cup circuit.
Weibrecht was yet to score a notable result in the World Cup when he took bronze at the Vancouver Games in 2010. And he had just one top-10 finish to his account when he sped to silver and could call himself a two-time Olympic medalist in Sochi four years later.
So can he turn the tide once again and finally get a podium again in South Korea next month?
“I think it’s possible,” Weibrecht told The Associated Press. “Especially if I take the downhills off to preserve my knee. That gives me a lot of time to get good training.”
The Lake Placid, New York native, who turns 32 five days before the Feb. 15 Olympic super-G, had his best spell in the two years following the Sochi Games.
He racked up nine top-10 results in World Cup speed races, including a third place in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in December 2015 and his career-best second place at Kitzbuehel the following month.
But 12th place in a race in Santa Caterina, Italy, last season has been his best result in 11 super-G races since March 2016.
“It’s been a little bit of a struggle,” Weibrecht said about his season so far. “My knee has been tough so I’ve not been able to train as much as I would have liked. I am just taking it one race at a time.”
Placing 24th and trailing winner Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway by 2.38 seconds upon his return to the Austrian resort on Friday didn’t do his performance justice, Weibrecht said.
“I feel like I am skiing well, like there’s definitely good parts. I am just not really putting runs together,” he said. “I felt like I skied pretty decently, I just got out of the track on the flats and the snow is so slow and sticky that it’s kind of game over.”
After the race, Weibrecht sat together with the U.S. men’s ski team’s head coach, Sasha Rearick, to compile a two-week schedule which should give him the best possible preparation ahead of the Olympics.
That schedule is totally focusing on super-G, and means Weibrecht will be skipping Saturday’s downhill on the Streif, just as he sat out another classic downhill race in Switzerland last week.
“We just skipped Wengen to focus on super-G here,” Rearick said. “It didn’t quite go as well as we hoped. But he is in good spirits to fight on.”
Rearick, who was also in charge of the American team at the last two Olympics, is not worried about Weibrecht’s recent lack of results.
“We have been through this with Andrew over the past nine years a few times,” the coach said. “These big waves, the waves are not short with Andrew, they are kind of long. We have managed to have fun at the Olympic Games with him. Even when he’s been at the bottom of the wave.”
Rearick said there are “no expectations he can do it a third time,” but immediately added the question: “Why not?”
“There is nothing to lose in the Olympic Games,” he said. “It’s just to go out and express yourself and have fun going down the mountain. And Andrew’s done that well over the years.”