Calgary skier Jan Hudec propelled by his pain as he enters cannabis industry
'I've tried everything legal on the pharmaceutical side,' says the much-injured athlete
Olympic skier Jan Hudec says obstacles in his life have prepared him well to retire — and start a new career in the burgeoning Canadian cannabis industry.
The three-time Olympian retired on the weekend after a 19-year career.
After a few days off, he's ready to start his new job with BlackShire Capital, an investment firm focused on the cannabis industry.
"It's not just a good business opportunity," the 36-year-old told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.
"From the medical side, it's helping a lot of people and it's more of a natural way to help people than all the pharmaceuticals, which I've kind of grown up on in the last few years."
Thousands of Canadians have been prescribed medical marijuana, and cannabis is expected to be legalized for recreational use this summer.
Although the investment firm is looking ahead to recreational legalization, Hudec says what he's heard about the medicinal benefits is what prompted him to accept the position.
The medical benefits of the drug are widely lauded by users; however, a new guideline for physicians suggests benefits may be overstated and studies on the drug's effects have been minimal.
"Pain management, I've tried everything legal on the pharmaceutical side," Hudec said.
"I've never partaken in marijuana, legal or not legal, in my life and I never felt the need to do it. Maybe it was just I was still scared of my dad at 35."
Retirement, 'pretty big struggle'
Hudec has had 14 surgeries, eight of those on his right knee — all while keeping a reputation as a energetic, humorous athlete.
He won an Olympic bronze for Canada in super-G in Sochi — only weeks after being bedridden from a herniated disk in his back. Now he's expecting two more operations in the coming months, after skiing with two injuries in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics for his native Czech Republic.
He says his body is now too broken to continue competing.
"It's kind of ... a pretty big struggle for a lot of athletes that basically live a life of sport full-time," Hudec said. "Then all of a sudden, you're in a position where you almost need to start over."
He was facing either going to university or climbing a corporate ladder from the bottom, but a friend — BlackShire CEO Kevin Reed — offered him this job, he said.
"What I've managed to overcome in sports and just tackling the will, the body, the mind," Hudec said, "I think has prepared me pretty well for this change."
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With files from Donna McElligott and the Calgary Eyeopener.