Former Canadian ski racer Jan Hudec not ready to give up on Olympic dream - InfoNews

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Former Canadian ski racer Jan Hudec not ready to give up on Olympic dream

Jan Hudec of the Czech Republic heads down the course during a training run for the men's World Cup downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alta. on Friday, Nov.24, 2017. On the right shoulder of Jan Hudec's racing suit, a Maple Leaf intersects with a lion. Meshing symbols of Canada and the Czech Republic over yet another body part that has been surgically repaired sums up Hudec's ski racing history.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
November 26, 2017 - 1:45 PM

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. - On the right shoulder of Jan Hudec's racing suit, a Maple Leaf intersects with a lion.

Meshing symbols of Canada and the Czech Republic over yet another body part that has been surgically repaired sums up Hudec's ski racing history.

"I'm still a proud Canadian. I still bleed red," Hudec said. "We all do, technically."

Hudec was a physical wreck when he won Olympic super-G bronze in 2014 and ended Canada's 20-year drought in men's alpine skiing. He was bedridden with a herniated disc in his back just a few weeks the race.

No longer with the Canadian team, the 36-year-old is trying to jumpstart his dented chassis and race for the Czechs in February's Winter Games.

"My biggest question to myself this summer, if I continue or not, was where barriers become lane changers," Hudec told The Canadian Press.

"At one point do you decide whether it's a hurdle that you're supposed to jump over to reach your goal . . . or is it an actual barrier that's supposed to guide you onto a new path?

"That's been the challenge for me. Deciphering the difference."

He won a world championship silver medal in downhill in 2007, as well as six career World Cup medals during his 14 years on the Canadian team.

Knee and back injuries limited him to just nine World Cup starts for Canada post-2014. A falling out with Alpine Canada in 2016 sent Hudec to the country of his birth.

A month after an eighth surgery on his right knee, Hudec said Alpine Canada made it so financially onerous for him to race, that he was essentially being forced to retire.

Alpine Canada countered that Hudec wasn't willing to demonstrate post-surgery progress and fitness in supervised testing and left him off the team for the 2016-17 season.

Hudec's parents fled Czechoslovakia in 1982 when he was a baby. They made their way to Alberta a few years later and Hudec grew up ski racing in the Banff area.

Racing in Czech colours and well down the start order because his world ranking had dropped, Hudec finished outside the top 40 in World Cup races last season.

His best result was 32nd in super-G at the world championship.

Hudec's history of skiing fast when he was banged up and lacked fitness makes him believe the big results are still in him.

"I knew I had one more year in me at least," he said. "I knew if my equipment was good, felt comfortable on my skis and was fairly fit, I knew I could ski fast."

But an epic tumble during spring training in May meant another surgery on a right knee that's on familiar terms with a scalpel. He also injured his shoulder and broke his finger in the crash.

His shoulder not healing over the summer, Hudec underwent surgery to repair his damaged labrum, rotator cuff and bicep in October. So once again, he has started a ski season with little preparation.

Hudec needs World Cup points, which means climbing back into the top 30 finishers, in order to claim one of five spots on the Czech Olympic alpine ski team.

In Lake Louise, Alta., where he won World Cup downhill gold in 2007, Hudec finished 72nd in a field of 74 on Saturday. He missed a gate and didn't finish Sunday's super-G.

"I'm not here to win obviously. I am here to get miles though," he said. "I do need the miles."

The men head to the next World Cup stop in Beaver Creek, Colo., but Hudec intends to stay in Lake Louise.

He can be a forerunner for the women's World Cup races this week, which gives him reps on a quality course.

Collecting FIS points in December's Nor Am races in Lake Louise can improve his ranking and thus his start number for World Cups.

"I just want to finish my career on something that I didn't have excuses for, the skis didn't feel good or this didn't work for me or that," Hudec said.

"I just wanted to feel good physically and have skis that I feel awesome on and then just tried to go for it. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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