5 Things You Should Know About Jan Hudec
by Michael Mastarciyan
For a guy who spent a lot of time last summer resting an aching back with very little dry-land and on-snow training - Jan Hudec has been remarkably speedy so far this year.
Then again, Hudec is part race horse, so it’s not very surprising.
One of the most-naturally gifted racers on the World Cup tour, Hudec’s equine-like talents make him a dark-horse podium threat whenever he’s healthy enough to strap on his race boards – but when you ask the racer who grew up racing in Banff, Alberta, being a “dark-horse” isn’t exactly what he wants to be known as.
“Being a racehorse is fine, but I think I’m not as much of a dark-horse, maybe I’m a grey horse now, but I am still a race horse,” Hudec says.
Dark, grey or whatever colour horse he may be, Hudec has unfortunately never been able to capitalize on the benefits of the “healthy-as-a-horse” euphemism that goes with the equine comparison.
So far, in terms of an elite level racing career, Hudec’s major successes have come during brief periods of physical wellness in-between numerous career-threatening knee surgeries or bouts of debilitating back pain. But, few in number as they may be, Hudec’s shining moments have been both big and bright.
First, a downhill silver medal at the 2007 World Championships in Are, Sweden. Then in November 2007, entry into the annals of Canadian alpine ski racing history as the first Canadian to win a World Cup race in Lake Louise, Alberta. Then, just last Saturday, a downhill victory in Chamonix, France, the icing on a season that’s so far been full of very solid performances.
Still, successes past and present notwithstanding, Hudec says his career has been, for the most part, an up-and-down affair.
“Living a life of mostly rehab can get tedious and a little frustrating after a while. It’s such a weight off my shoulders to win again. I never stopped believing that I could be back I just had no idea how long it would take, or when it would happen, and now to be on the podium after all these years, and all these injuries, is just an amazing feeling.”
While not ready to call his most recent successes a career “renaissance” just yet, Hudec says he’s still got plenty of gas in the tank.
“Retirement? Even at my lowest, I never thought about it. Love of the sport, my passion, my heart and faith, I knew I could do it without having the tangible evidence, and I just had to keep going and I knew it could eventually happen. I sometimes questioned myself on why I didn’t think about retiring. Right now it feels like a resurrection, almost like a new beginning. If I stay healthy I can race for another 5 or 6 years and that’s definitely my plan. I feel like I am starting to get going again, and it’s an exciting place to be.”
One of the most gregarious and outgoing racers in the history of the World Cup, Hudec’s life story plays like a Hollywood movie. A Cold War era escape from behind the Iron Curtain in a home made boat cobbled together by his Czech parents. Life in a West German refugee camp and then finally, life in the beautiful Canadian Rockies where ski racing would change his life.
Known to friends as Honzo, Hudec has picked up a new nickname of late - Panda - a playful take on his very original Twitter moniker “@pandaHAUSofRock.”
“Anyone see Kungfu Panda? Me in a nutshell,” Hudec states for all to see on his Twitter page. “ A bit of rock n roll. A lotta taking it eeeeasy. But when it’s game on its game on for the Panda.”
There is more to Jan Hudec than ski racing though…like his strict rules on the use of raisins when cooking or baking…and a few other things...
1. Jan loves raisins but thinks “baking with raisins” is an EVIL concept.
“I will literally eat anything. I’ll try weird, crazy stuff and I won’t complain, but there’s one thing that I can’t stand - people who put raisins in cinnamon buns - they should all be locked up! That is the worst thing on earth. It’s like putting a turd on a golden nugget! I’ll eat dry raisins by themselves, they’re healthy, delicious, yummy snacks - but soggy raisins in baked goods are EVIL and should be banished. I would even eat chocolate covered bugs, but if they were raisin covered bugs and soggy I wouldn’t eat them. People who can’t bake properly put raisins in stuff to cheat, to make their baked product moist. Put more butter in it! That’s how you make it delicious! Baking with raisins is an evil concept and it should be stopped!”
2. Jan wants to dispel the ugly rumours surrounding his so-called “passion” for wearing socks and sandals together.
“Socks and sandals ouch! That is so NOT okay - unless no one is watching! The only reason I’ve worn socks and sandals before is because I was so stiff in my back that I couldn’t take my socks off and I had to put sandals on to get somewhere. I would never let anyone see me in socks and sandals, but I do wear completely ridiculous clothes besides that. I mean right now I’m wearing my ski tights with my socks pulled up to my knees and skate shoes. The rule on our team is that no one over the age of 25 is allowed to wear skate shoes anymore (apologies to our readers for not photographing Mr. Hudec’s hideous rainbow coloured skate shoes). I’m 30 so I kind of missed the boat on the whole skate shoe thing, but I like to wear them. The one’s I’ve got on now are pink, light blue and fluorescent green, but hey that’s just part of my personality. But getting back to socks and sandals, let me just say, for the record, that I’m not a supporter of the look even though my teammates have accused me of being passionate about wearing socks and sandals. So let’s get it straight once and for all, I’m definitely not PRO wearing socks and sandals. I freely admit I’ve done it before for health reasons or pure laziness. If I knew any fashion police were out there I wouldn’t do it, I would die if anyone caught me wearing them in public. Socks and sandals is a faux pas that’s almost as bad as raisins in cinnamon buns!”
3. Jan loves his 5-year-old son Oaklee more than anything and thinks Oaklee is the “sensible one” in the relationship!
“I love my son Oaklee more than anything. I’m really lucky too because he’s like my little buddy and he’s wise way beyond his years (Oakland Hudec is 5 years old). He’s so patient with me, he’s like an old guy in a little guy’s body. He’s definitely the more sensible one when we are out together (he laughs), it’s almost like he’s the dad and I’m the son and I think that’s why he likes me (laughs again). He likes me because he knows we can be silly together but at the same time, people know that I love to joke around and even be a little immature sometimes (he winks), but they also know I’m serious when it’s time to be serious. Oaklee gets this side of me. As long as it’s time to joke around and have fun there’s no limits, we pretty much do whatever. He knows that while he’s got a long rope, when it’s time to listen the rope gets shorter, and he listens. I’m very lucky to have such a well behaved boy, I think his Mum and I have done a good job with him.”
4. Jan is good with languages and can tell people he needs to eat, go potty and nap in English, Czech and German!
“One of my talents is languages (he laughs). I speak English relatively well (he laughs), I speak Czech without an accent, which is good, and I can read and write well in Czech, so maybe I have a future in Czech media when my racing career ends someday. I can speak German too, my pronunciation is really good but my vocabulary sucks.
I left there when I was 5, so my vocabulary is the same as when I left Germany when I was in kindergarden. So I can get by and tell people I want to go to the potty (he laughs) in German if I need to, but beyond that I don’t know much more than telling them I need to go for a bathroom break, eating, taking a nap or colouring with crayons (he laughs).”
5. Jan stays sane by playing the drums...
“I’m a music major, not in the academic sense, but in the sense that music is a major part of my life. When I was 15 I realized I couldn’t sing and guitar was going to be too hard to learn, so I picked up the drums. I ended up buying an old set of drums with money I earned from my first real job, which was bagging groceries at Safeway. I still have that drum set to this day. Last year, I finally got a new set of drums and I love them. When I’m home I play the drums a lot, it’s a big part of my life. I need to play drums to stay sane (he laughs). Whether it’s jamming with a band or just by myself, I can put headphones on, put my Ipod on shuffle and play everything from Metallica to Moby to Pink to Coldplay. Okay wait, I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for that Coldplay remark, but I love Coldplay (he laughs) - but like I said, it’s one of those things that keeps me sane and I want to play every day.”