Jan Hudec pulls out of downhill opener at Lake Louise
Olympic medallist has little confidence in sore knee
After eight knee surgeries, Jan Hudec is accustomed to skiing in pain. It takes a certain kind of pain to force him out of a race, especially on home snow in Lake Louise.
But Hudec will not race in the season-opening World Cup men's downhill Saturday. The Calgarian withdrew from a second straight training run Thursday. Stepping into the start hut for Sunday's shorter super-G is a "maybe" at best.
"Will it be worth it to take a major risk on Sunday just because it's Lake Louise and it's at home and I like the hill?" Hudec said Thursday. "Probably not, but that's a bridge I'll cross when I get there."
Norway's Kjetil Jansrud, who swept the downhill and super-G a year ago, was fastest in Thursday's training after posting the second-fastest time the previous day. Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was the top Canadian in sixth.
A third and final training run is scheduled for Friday at the Alberta ski resort west of Calgary.
Hudec, 34, has minimal cartilage in his right knee after a seventh surgery on it in January. He's had one surgery on his left knee. While training with the Canadian men at Nakiska Ski Resort last week, Hudec says the bones in his right knee "squished" together.
I don't care about pain. ... It needs to be safe for me to go down the mountain at 110 per cent. There's so much pain [in my knee] that it would basically put me in a defensive position.- Canadian skier Jan Hudec on withdrawing from Saturday's season-opening World Cup downhill
The Olympic bronze medallist in super-G in 2014 rode the chairlift up the mountain Thursday intending to get a training run in, but pulled the plug.
"I've skied with pain before so I thought better living through pharmaceuticals would make it all better and it just didn't today," Hudec said. "Not enough to give me the confidence to go down the course.
"I don't care about pain. More than the pain, it needs to feel safe for me to go down the mountain at 110 per cent. There's so much pain that it would basically put me in a defensive position."
Hudec won the downhill in Lake Louise in 2007. Canada's lone home stop on the World Cup downhill circuit is special to him because of the support the host team gets.
In addition to the usual motivations racing at home, Hudec's plan this weekend was to race with a helmet designed for him by 10-year-old Dylan Kwan.
The helmet, featuring a fierce panda bear, fetched a bid of $15,000 for pediatric liver research at a fundraiser. Kwan, who has a liver condition called biliary atresia, will travel to Lake Louise.
"I think I can make it up to Dylan in other ways," Hudec said. "It'll give me time to hang out with him and actually spend time with him in the finish and critique all the racers together.
Travis Gangong of the U.S. was second in training and Austrian Max Franz was third. Guay was three-quarters of a second back of Jansrud, the defending overall World Cup champion in downhill and super-G.
"I just wanted to have a good run, challenge the line a little bit more," Guay said. "I think I did a good job, but I did make some mistakes in some areas."
Manny Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C., was second in last year's downhill. He had problems out of the start gate Thursday and was way back in 50th.
Calgary's Tyler Werry was 34th, Ben Thomsen of Invermere finished 46th and Jeffrey Frisch of Mont-Tremblant, Que., placed 52nd.