Winning one unexpected Olympic medal would be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for most athletes. American Downhiller Andrew Weibrecht managed to do it twice in a career that had its fair share of ups and downs as he took home super-G bronze in Vancouver 2010 and a miraculous silver in super-G at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
Now, the stocky 32-year-old Lake Placid, New York, native has his sights set on other goals in life, like raising his family and spending more quality time at home. He announced last week that he would be retiring from ski racing after 16 years with the U.S. Ski Team.
“I’ve been with Weibrecht for 16 years,” reflects former U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick. “He first made the development team when I first came into the team. Seeing a kid with just tremendous power and absolute love of going down the mountain at crazy angles and seeing him grow and being a part of that for so long has been a true honor; one of the great honors of my career.”
“Warhorse” as he was known to teammates, coaches, competitors, and fans around the world endeared himself through his hard-charging style and impeccable technique that led to some incredible results and a few spectacular crashes throughout his career on the World Cup.
“What it comes down to is this; the stress of being on the road and away from my family no longer made ski racing worth it,” Weibrecht writes in a series of farewell Instagram posts. “I will always love the experience, but I no longer love the lifestyle and I’m happy to say that I’m retiring the way I wanted to; without regret and ready for the next adventure. Thanks to everybody who has supported me through my career, I really can’t say enough to show how grateful I am.”
Weibrecht first launched himself onto the World stage after a legendary attack-from-the-back downhill run in 2007 during a snowstorm in Beaver Creek where he charged from the 53rd start position to finish 10th, at one time mere hundredths of a second from race winner Michael Walchhofer of Austria’s pace.
In the years following his Beaver Creek performance, Weibrecht steadily chipped away at his world rank, eventually earning an Olympic birth in the 2010 Vancouver Games and winning a bronze medal in super-G alongside teammate Bode Miller’s silver, signaling to the rest of the world that he had officially arrived.
“I had a great race in Vancouver and really surprised myself and at least a dozen other people,” he remembers. “And then I got hurt. I was mostly hurt for about four years, so I skied when I could, I got married, hung out on boats with my dog, went on another great bike trip, but mostly I worked hard and put my nose to the grind stone.”
Battling through four years of injuries to his shoulders, ankles, and knees definitely took its toll as he had all but accepted retirement heading into his second Olympics in Sochi 2014. Then, the unimaginable happened. With the second highest possible start number for his ranking, warm weather, and a rapidly deteriorating track, Weibrecht shocked the world for the second Games in a row, this time taking super-G silver and was again joined by Miller in third place. Bent-over in the finish, emotions ran wild as what he had just accomplished began to sink in.
“About a day after I decided in my head that I was retiring, Sochi happened,” he says. “And I had that kind of day that I still can’t describe which launched a whole new chapter of my career. The years after Sochi were the best of my career. I raced at my highest level and had experiences that will stay with me forever.”
“Andrew just had the ability to go fast,” adds Rearick. “For a racer to be able to pull it all together in Vancouver and Sochi is really special. He just had the ability to stay focused from top to bottom and in the moment and expressed himself like only he could do.”
After Sochi, Weibrecht climbed on his first World Cup podium with a third place in the Beaver Creek super-G in 2015 and also finished second in super-G at Kitzbuehel in 2016. Weibrecht even threatened to take the super-G red bib for a time during the 2015-16 season before finishing the year ranked eighth in the world.
Weibrecht will be remembered by his coaches and colleagues on the World Cup as a silent professional who was always wiling to put in the necessary work day in and day out to stay on top. Now, the door is open for the younger members of the U.S. Ski Team to follow his example and fill the shoes he is leaving behind.
“To the athletes; it was a pleasure to compete against you all,” Weibrecht finishes. “For those of you sticking around, I look forward to watching you do things I no longer have to do (Kitzbuehel first training, etc.). And to those retiring, thanks for the great times. Thank you all, I couldn’t have done it without you and I wouldn’t have wanted to. From NYSEF to Team USA, I have had the honor of being associated with some of the best people I will ever know, and that will always be my privilege.”