Birds of Prey: Not too bad of a show … again
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” So I was going to a news conference Wednesday at The Inn at Beaver Creek to do a feature on the U.S. Ski Team.
The majority of the media assembled, huddling around Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman. With Bode Miller skiing as an independent, there was no question that those two were the centers of attention.
I rotated from Ligety to Nyman, and then merely as a courtesy, went to interview a few “other” members of the team. I knew the story I was going to write for Thursday’s edition, but I didn’t want to seem rude by not talking to the “rest” of the team.
Enjoying the comfy chairs in the lobby more than really listening to what any of these guys had to say, the kid to my right was saying generally quotable things. Good for him.
He wasn’t going to do anything.
His name was Andrew Weibrecht.
And you are?
I would have looked really good had I put him in my preview two days later when he vaulted from the 53rd bib to 10th in Friday’s downhill.
I’m know I’ve written this in the past, but it rings true every year. Birds of Prey, as much as I dread it as a sports writer and editor ” this is a lot of work, people ” never fails to amaze.
While the nitty-gritty results of this year’s races are Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal’s injury, Switzerland’s Daniel Albrecht’s two wins and Austria’s tattoo job in Monday’s super-G, the moment those who were there will remember was Weibrecht’s run from nowhere.
To paraphrase “Caddyshack,” this was the Cinderella story about to win the Masters Tournament.
During this week, we cling to the International Ski Federation’s (FIS) media guide to disguise our lack of knowledge, but in one instance it’s very interesting. Friday’s downhill winner, Michael Walchhofer, and Weibrecht are on facing pages. These mini-biographies show every top-30 finish of each active skier on the tour.
Walchhofer’s entry fills an entire page. He has two wins at skiing’s shrine of Kitzbuehel among his now 11 career victories. He’s been in the top-10 of the overall from 2004-06. He has three medals at the World Championships, including gold in downhill in 2003. (See how the book makes one look smart?).
On the next page is Weibrecht looking every bit as baby-faced as he did on Wednesday in person. All that is listed there is that the Lake Placid, N.Y., native won the North-American Cup, essentially a minor-league title, last season. His birthday is Feb. 10, if you want to send him a card.
On the World Cup, nothing. No points. Upon deeper research on FIS’ Web site, all Weibrecht had to his name was two finishes in the 30s in Norway last spring.
Weibrecht finished a surprising 14th in Thursday’s super combined, but we’ve seen this so often, a young American doing well on home snow. Nice 15 minutes of fame, kid.
And so I find myself essentially waiting for Weibrecht to get down the hill Friday for a token quote of “It was cool to ski in front of American fans. Too bad The Talon got me,” for my “How the Americans did” story. If he was super lucky, he’d find his way into 28th, a nice little mention, because the race is generally over after the top 30 go in speed events and no one with his bib is going to make a really big move.
And then this kid who was politely sitting next to me two days ago is skiing what is unquestionably the best race of his career. I would say it was Bode-esque, but putting that tag on any skier isn’t right because Miller’s style is his own.
Weibrecht went pretty much head-on into gate ” and these are downhill ones, not the more-forgiving slalom types. That really should slow you down. He really should have wiped out off Harrier. I’ll assume he landed the Golden Eagle Jump on one ski just for variety’s sake.
When I saw “10” on the scoreboard, designating his place, I was probably just as shocked as he was. Upon futher review, he was actually more stunned. He understandably looked like a deer in the headlights when the media descended on him.
I say this is a polite way, but he sounded more like former attorney general Alberto Gonzales during Congressional testimony earlier this year, saying “I don’t know” time after time. He managed to get a few good quips out, but what was more memorable was seeing Weibrecht somewhat sleep-walk through the corral and up to the podium, while at the same time, having a faint recognition of what was happening.
By all accounts, a nice kid was starting to have his dream come true. We don’t know what his career holds. We might have seen one shining moment or the beginning of something very special. Only the future will tell.
As I walked down to the shuttle after the race was really over ” I checked to make sure everyone was down the hill ” Weibrecht was walking up toward the finish area. He still had a bit of a goofy look on his face that said. “I can’t believe what I’ve just done.”
I asked him if it felt a little more real. With a smile he said, “Yeah.”
Nothing more was said. Nothing needed to be.
Just another day of World Cup racing.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.