It’s not about the board
The call came on a Thursday.The day before Chris Klug, one of snowboarding’s true pioneers, had water skied with friends on Ruedi Reservoir between Basalt and Meredith and pondered an early death.”The clock was ticking really fast. … There was a sense that I was saying good-bye to the people and things I loved,” Klug writes in his new autobiography with Steve Jackson, “To the Edge and Back.”A second chance on life came a day later when Klug got a call from University Hospital in Denver with the news that there was a possible match for a liver transplant.After being diagnosed with primary schlerosing cholangitis (PSC) in 1998, the same disease that killed football legend Walter Payton, Klug had dismissed the possibility of the disease affecting his immediate future. He had even been incensed at the initial urging of his doctor to go on a transplant waiting list – an understandable reaction from an athlete hell-bent on achieving his life of winning an Olympic gold medal and who wasn’t looking for distractions.By 2000, however, the disease and its debilitating effects had made Klug do an about-face. His white blood cell count was way down. He couldn’t shake a steady low fever. He was dying quickly.When the call came – one that Klug, family and friends had been desperately waiting for – Klug admits that he was petrified.”I was scared (expletive), but trying not to let any of (my family) know” Klug writes.
The stress was unbearable with so many uncertainties lying ahead.What if the new liver didn’t take? What about the possibility of AIDS from a bad blood transfusion? What if someone who had a higher status on the transfer list stole the liver at the last second?All those concerns were put to rest after the six-hour surgery in Denver on July 28, 2000. Four months later Klug would start training again with the U.S. Snowboard Team. And, less than two years later, after he skirted death, Klug slalomed to a bronze-medal finish in Park City, Utah, at the 2002 Winter Olympics.The story only gets better.Klug was one of the members of the American team to carry the torn and burned American flag from the fallen World Trade Center towers into the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremonies. His bronze medal also came on National Donor Day – a serendipitous moment to say the least. An inspiring message
At a book signing at the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail Wednesday night Klug said he hopes to generate organ donor awareness with his story of perseverance in “To the Edge and Back.”He also said, in making the decision to write an autobiography, that his intent was to shed some light into the roots of a sport he helped bring to the mainstream.”I really think it does transcend snowboarding,” he said. “It is a story about overcoming the major obstacles. I think it’s really inspirational.” “A lot of it is also those early stories of all the characters I got started out with and all of us who sort of invented this sport together. It’s about those who started out in the beginning and all of the great adventures that we’ve had all over the World Cup circuit.”Jackson, whose previous works include 2003 Colorado Book Award winner, “Lucky Lady,” said Klug’s memoir, to him, is a story about a fulfilled second chance.”It’s about living your dreams,” Jackson said. “It’s about overcoming obstacles and it’s also about keeping your dreams in front of you. I really think that’s really what pulled Chris through a lot of the things that he was doing is that there was something on the other end of it.”All the dirt
Klug said one of the most daunting things about writing the book, a process that spanned more than four years, was putting himself out there to a reading public.At points, he said, he was sick of the seemingly never-ending string of questions from Jackson, along with the numerous re-writes and proofing sessions. Once he got the final copy in his hands last month, however, he said he instantly realized all the work was worth it.”It was exhausting, the last year working on it,” Klug said. “It was just endless proofreading. Once I finally realized that this is going to be out there to the public, and everyone is going to know my story, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t say anything too stupid or wrong anyone. It’s pretty honest. “When it finally showed up last month, it was like, ‘Damn, this is what we’ve been doing for the last four years. I’d never written a book before. For me, it was an amazingly educational process and also very rewarding when we saw that final product arrive.”Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Colorado