Empire state of mind
By Michael Mastarciyan
Ask Andrew Weibrecht what the best part of his summer has been and he'll tell you flat out, "The part where I didn't get injured during on-snow training."
A former New York Ski Educational Foundation prodigy, the 24-year-old Weibrecht - who is also affectionately known as Warbird and/or Warhorse by friends and fans alike for his tank-like build, hardworking soldier-like attitude, and steely temperament both on and off the slopes is in some ways an East Coast version of one of his US Ski Team predecessors, California's alpine superstar Daron Rahlves - a soft-spoken gentle spirit on dry-land who turns into a surface-to-air missile when skis touch snow.
On a chilly morning in Whistler last February, Weibrecht put on his alpine battle armor and exploded onto the world's biggest athletic stage with the super-G run of a lifetime that would be good enough to capture an Olympic bronze medal. Along with the medal came national notoriety and all the trappings of athletic success associated with it - lots of fame, some fortune and his picture on a Sports Illustrated magazine cover to show the grandkids some day.
"Since the medal everything has been a little bit more busy, but beyond that I still feel pretty much the same. The additional craziness is well worth the phenomenal support that everyone has given me from my home town of Lake Placid to my ski company Rossignol," Weibrecht said.
Not long after, Weibrecht's life began to imitate the super-G run he owed his newfound success to - lots of fast-paced twists, turns, ups and downs. After the initial high of his bronze medal performance, Weibrecht faced one of the biggest lows a ski racer can face - a heavy crash on March 6th at the Kvitfjell downhill that would rip up his shoulder and the rest of his season. The injury was nowhere close to career-ending, but did require surgery and rehabilitation, leaving an indelible mark on the skier's psyche about the razor sharp line between glory and disaster every athlete must navigate.
"This was my first major injury so I didn't have any idea what to expect, the recovery has taken longer than I had thought it would and it bummed me out to be limited with what I was able to do this spring and summer. We got back on snow this August and everything felt great so it was worth the time and effort to make sure that I healed up well before I got back into the mix of everything."
With a successful surgery, re-hab and on-snow training sessions in New Zealand and Chile now behind him Weibrecht's focus during his off-season "down time" has been getting back to his "roots" in the verdant mountain hamlet of Lake Placid, New York nestled in the idyllic Adirondacks. After some "quality time" and catching up with his Lange Girl girlfriend Denja Rand, and his Mum and Dad who own and operate the famed Mirror Lake Inn, Weibrecht settled into some serious biking, fishing and sailing this summer. The bronze medal, which Weibrecht had brought home just after the Olympics and unveiled to a boisterous home town crowd during a parade where he rode down Main Street on a big red fire truck was initially on display at the Lake Placid 1932/1980 Winter Olympic Museum. Now, like Weibrecht, it's enjoying some "hometime" too.
"The parade was awesome, it was really special to me how excited the whole town was about my success. I have always felt the support from Lake Placid, however to see everybody come out to celebrate my accomplishment made me realize how lucky I was to grow up as an athlete there. After keeping the medal at the Olympic museum for a few months I decided to move it to my parents' hotel to be on display there."
But a summertime visit home to New York wouldn't be the same for Weibrecht without a visit to the Empire State's grandest attraction - The Big Apple - New York City for a little sightseeing and some big-time tennis action at The US OPEN.
"I was psyched to be able to make it down to the Open again this summer, my brother lives down in NYC so it's great to get down there and hang out with him. We got lucky with the matches and saw a couple of five setters that kept us over at the tennis center from 11am to 1:30am, it was awesome," Weibrecht said.
Back in race shape, shoulder mended and refreshed from a visit home "that felt like a vacation," Weibrecht says he's now ready to pick up where last season should have left off - on the road to more success on the slopes.
"I'm getting psyched as a new year is coming up. I feel great about my fitness and skiing and I hope to pick up where I left off last season."