By Andrew Mitchell
Wearing bib number 2 in the men’s downhill on Sunday, Banff’s Jan Hudec claimed Canada’s only medal to date at the 2007 FIS Alpine World Championships in Are, Sweden.
As the second skier down the course, Hudec had what can only be called a fresh slate to make his marks, smoothly carving the same corners that other racers would bounce around later in the race. For Hudec, it made all the difference.
“When I came through the finish I knew it was a good run,” he said. “I knew it was a fast run and it was one of those good feelings when you get to the finish.
“To have start number two was just a total blessing today, I think. I’ve had start numbers in the 50s and 60s all year and it was quite difficult for me.”
Earning a silver medal behind Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who had by far the cleanest run of the day on a course that had fog drifting in and out, Hudec became only the third male in Canadian history to medal at the world alpine championships. Whistler’s Steve Podborski earned a bronze in the 1980 Winter Games, which was considered a world championship, while “Jungle” Jim Hunter tied for third in combined in 1972.
Earlier in the week Hudec placed seventh in an incredibly tight super-G, just 0.04 seconds off the podium.
“I was pretty ticked off that I was off the podium by four-hundredths… that just made me more motivated,” he said.
But while Hudec had Canada’s top run Sunday, it’s not for a lack of trying by other athletes. Erik Guay skied aggressively from the top, nearly lost control on one corner and ended up skiing on one leg, but got back under control enough to place fourth behind Patrik Jaerbyn of Sweden. Just 0.02 seconds separated him from third place.
Manuel Osborne-Paris, an alumnus of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, also cracked the top-10 with a ninth place finish, while John Kucera ended his day in 31 st .
According to reports, as the only member of the men’s speed team not to win a medal this season, the 25-year-old Hudec was consigned to a mattress on the floor of the athletes’ accommodation. Hudec, now sporting a Mohawk hairdo after making a bet with his physical trainer, was upgraded after his performance. He will also receive an upgrade to his transportation situation when he returns to Canada, as Canadian team sponsors at Pontiac GMC will provide him with a free lease for a car or truck for one year as part of an incentive program for racers. Anyone who wins a medal in a World Cup or world championship gets the same.