Andrew Weibrecht

Andrew Weibrecht hopes major injuries, concussions are behind him

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Andrew Weibrecht followed his second Olympic medal, a silver in the Sochi super-G on Feb. 16, with a second concussion two months ago in a preseason training crash in New Zealand.

Weibrecht, also concussed in a spill last fall, visited a University of Michigan specialist for a series of tests.

“He felt really optimistic,” Weibrecht said while promoting the 2015 Vail/Beaver Creek World Championships in New York last week. “He didn’t really think that there’s any great consequence. It was good to get that from one of the top guys.”

Weibrecht’s mother told the Lake Placid (N.Y.) News last week, “It’s very scary. But you know, he’s got to go for as long as he’s comfortable.”

Weibrecht, 28, is all clear for the World Cup season, which for him begins with the first speed races in Lake Louise, Canada, on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Lake Placid native hopes for better fortune coming out of Sochi than he experienced after winning his Vancouver Olympic super-G bronze in 2010. Between Vancouver and Sochi, Weibrecht blew out both shoulders, tore both ankles and failed to find a healthy rhythm on tour.

His best finish in more than 40 World Cup starts from 2010 to 2014 was 10th. Weibrecht was demoted from the U.S. Ski Team’s “A team” to the “B team,” meaning he had to fund $21,000 out of his own pocket. There was concern he might not make the 2014 Olympic team.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in athletics so far is if you stay healthy, it’s quite a lot easier,” Weibrecht said. “I’ve seen both sides: the success side; then after that, I saw the really tough side of the sport.

“Now that I have success back, I want to maintain that.”

Weibrecht took a step by recording his best-ever World Cup result after Sochi, seventh in a super-G in Kvitfjell, Norway, on March 2.

Still, he owns a peculiar résumé.

Weibrecht, nicknamed “War Horse” for his hard-charging racing style, owns as many Olympic medals as Lindsey Vonn. Yet he’s posted just three top-10 finishes in World Cup and World Championship races, with that seventh-place best.

“If I was to end my career now, I accomplished a lot, but I didn’t accomplish everything that I wanted to,” he said.

As Weibrecht faced 2015 World Championships banners in a lower Manhattan showroom, he pointed to another goal this year — sustained success on the World Cup tour that surrounds Worlds.

“That kind of dictates your mental sanity week to week,” Weibrecht said, “rather than having that one good race all year.”

In the Russian mountains, Weibrecht called his Olympic super-G silver medal run “the most emotional day of ski racing” in his career. How much longer he races is largely dependent on one thing.

“How I stay physically,” Weibrecht said. “I don’t really know that I have the energy to do that cycle of injuries again.”

Claudia Pechstein eyes seventh Olympics at age 45

Rewind: Australia’s Steven Bradbury gains gold and lasting fame after pileup takes out Apolo Ohno

Steven Bradbury
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Heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics, young American Apolo Ohno was a phenom with a legitimate shot at multiple medals in short-track speedskating.

The 1999 world junior champion and future “Dancing with the Stars” champion had finished first in the World Cup season standings in all three individual disciplines in the 2000-01 season. In the 2001 world championships, he took gold in the relay and the 3,000m (a non-Olympic event), silver in the 1,000m and fourth in the 1,500m.

Australia’s Steven Bradbury was at the other end of his career, enduring all sorts of misfortune in the years that followed — a 1995 accident in which he needed more than 100 stitches after a skate blade sliced his thigh, then a 2000 accident in which he broke two vertebra in his neck. 

The highlights of Bradbury’s career were relay world championships medals — gold in 1991, bronze in 1993, silver in 1994. He and his relay teammates also took Olympic bronze in 1994.

Bradbury barely advanced to one individual final, the 1,000m in 2002. He advanced from the quarterfinal when Canadian favorite Marc Gagnon was disqualified. He advanced from the semifinal when multiple skaters fell.

In the final, Bradbury was matched up against three outstanding skaters, including Ohno and Li Jiajun of China, who won this event and the overall title at the 2001 world championships. Ohno and Li had finished 1-2 in the 1,000m World Cup standings in 2001.

Bradbury couldn’t keep up. The other four skaters were in a pack, making dangerous passes among each other, while Bradbury fell further and further behind.

Those dangerous passes finally caught up to the rest of the field in the final turn. Li bumped into Ohno, which would lead to Li’s disqualification. After the lead pack jockeyed for position through the entire race, all four tumbled to the ice.

Bradbury, the last man standing, crossed the finish line first.

 

From the tangled pile-up, Ohno managed to fling himself, skate-first, across the finish line to take silver. Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte made it across for bronze.

Ohno wasn’t done in Salt Lake City. He won the 1,500m gold after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung, a controversial decision that made Ohno the object of South Korean derision.

Less controversially, Ohno won three more individual world championship events from 2005 to 2009, plus two relay golds, and the overall world title in 2008. In the Olympics, he took six more medals, including gold in the 500m in 2006 and silver in the 1,500m in 2010.

Bradbury missed the finals in the other two events in Salt Lake City, but his name lives on in the Urban Dictionary and elsewhere as a synonym for an improbable and even accidental victory. He embraced his unique place in history to carve out a career as a motivational speaker delivering more than 1,000 speeches in 19 countries, according to the International Skating Union and has even seen his win commemorated in Legos.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier form new figure skating pair

Brandon Frazier
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A few weeks after her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, stepped away from competitive figure skating, Alexa Scimeca Knierim has a new partner.

Brandon Frazier, who was also looking for someone to form a new pair after longtime partner Haven Denney stepped away from competition, at least temporarily, will join Scimeca Knierim on the ice whenever they’re able to train and compete again.

Frazier is a longtime friend of Chris Knierem. Scimeca Knierim told U.S. Figure Skating’s FanZone that Frazier had played a pivotal role in kindling the Knierem’s off-ice romance.

Denney and Frazier won the U.S. championship in 2017 and finished 20th in the world championships that year. They finished third in their two Grand Prix assignments last fall — Skate America and the Internationaux de France. They were runners-up in the 2019 U.S. championships and fifth this year, when they revived their “Lion King” free skate.

The Denney-Frazier pair took an unusual path to figure skating, starting as roller skaters.

The Knierims won their third U.S. championship in January but handed their slot in the world championships to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson when Chris Knierim, struggling with his form and depression, decided he was unable to continue beyond the Four Continents Championship. The world championships were later canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

READ: Resilient Knierims withdraw from world championships

The couple had earned attention for their romance and for their inspirational returns from illness and injury. Their U.S. championship win earlier this year was their third.

Skate America, the first event on the Grand Prix circuit, is scheduled to start Oct. 23 in Las Vegas.

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