Canadian alpine downhill athlete returns to Calgary from Sochi for medal run

Dozens of children and adults lined up at Canada Olympic Park on Feb. 21 for a chance to meet bronze medalist, Canadian Jan Hudec.

Hudec recently returned to Canada from Sochi, after winning the first medal for Canada in men’s alpine skiing in nearly 20 years. He appeared at C.O.P. to sign autographs, give interviews and even invite young aspiring ski racers to join him on a medal run down the hill.

“It’s a great honour to win this medal and bring it back to Canada,” said Hudec to a group of reporters inside C.O.P.’s Frank King Day Lodge.

The 32 year old finished 3rd overall on Feb. 16 in the men’s alpine skiing super-g competition. Hudec would finish with a time of 1:18.67. This would end up being the exact time as American skiing legend, Bode Miller, earning both a bronze medal.

“It’s all about perseverance,” Hudec said. “You can never count yourself out.”

It was about a month before his medal when the Canadian skier incurred a herniated disc, nearly putting him out of the Olympics.

“I’m never usually 100 per cent,” Hudec laughed. “It isn’t over until it’s over.”

Jan Hudec shows off his lucky loonie, which he buried at the finish line of the men’s alpine super-g competition. He went on to win bronze.

Photo by Andrew Szekeres
Between 2003 and 2010, Hudec went through multiple surgeries constantly stalling his skiing career.

Kids from various skiing clubs joined in on the medal run, while other kids and adults came out just to meet with the Olympic medalist.

Some even had their head autographed, which was the case for Sean Cunningham who came out for the event.

“It is so inspirational,” said Cunningham, who drove two-and-a-half hours from British Columbia with his son just to meet Hudec. “Seeing Canadians do well [at the Olmypics] is so great and inspiring for these young kids.”

Cunningham also added that his son will likely forbid him from washing off Hudec’s autograph.

For 11-year-old Cooper Wilczek, it was about becoming a new fan.

“I think what Jan [Hudec] did for Canada was awesome,” said the young skier. “What he did makes all of Canada proud.”

While Wilczek said that soccer is still his primary sport, alpine racing might be something he wants to take up in winter.

Hudec completed his medal run holding a giant Canadian flag and stopped for a photo-op with the press.

Along with his medal, Hudec also showed off his lucky loonie, which he buried at the finish line before his bronze medal run.

“It’s a tradition that’s been going on since 2002,” Hudec said. “I’m just happy to keep the tradition going.”

This was Hudec’s second Olympics, after Vancouver in 2010. He said he was happy to serve the team at the Winter Games for the second time.

“I saw some awe-inspiring performances when I was there,” Hudec said. “I’m proud to have been a part of this team.”

For a recap of some of the best moments from the Sochi Winter Games visit the Calgary Journal’s Storify page.

aszekeres@cjournal.ca