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One year on, Hudec returns at Wengen crash scene

One year on, Hudec returns at Wengen crash scene

For Jan Hudec and TJ Lanning it made perfect sense to choose the longest and toughest downhill course on the World Cup circuit for their return after injury.
Both were sidelined after achieving career-best results, and are keen to get on with racing on the classic Lauberhorn hill Saturday.
While Lanning, a 24-year-old American, had to miss just one race, Canada's Hudec comes back on the same piste where he blew out his knee exactly a year ago.
"It feels like I was just here yesterday," the 27-year-old Hudec told The Associated Press on Thursday. "Life doesn't really stop for one person, it just keeps going. I feel like I'm right back in the groove."
Hudec's 2008 was a competitive nonevent _ ended in a training crash at Wengen _ after a 2007 that delivered plenty.
A silver medal in downhill at the World Championships in Are, Sweden, in February; a first World Cup win at Lake Louise, Alberta, in November; a third place at Bormio, Italy, on Dec. 29, 2007 were all high points.
He was fourth in the downhill standings when he fell hard on the 90 mph Haneggschuss section of the Lauberhorn.
"It was good to go out on a high note after some really good results," Hudec said. "I still had something to remember while I was off the slopes."
The upbeat Calgary resident even believes ripping the ACL in his right knee for the third time was a good thing.
"It's weird, I'm almost a little more confident now in my skiing," he explained. "Last season, I felt confident because my results were good but my knee didn't feel that good. It was almost a weird blessing in disguise that I tore it again."
A further bout of surgery last September prevented a rushed return and now the Czech-born Hudec thinks the knee is stronger than ever.
"They took out a bunch of cartilage so that made it pretty uncomfortable for a while until it made itself smooth," he said. "Now I think I'm ready to roll."
The ski calendar also favored him, scheduling two downhills at Wengen on the second-tier Europa Cup circuit last weekend that "got the cobwebs out."
He will decide after Saturday's race whether to sit out the rest of the competitive season and start a long-range program designed to prepare Hudec for his home Winter Olympics at Vancouver in February 2010.
Lanning understands all about lengthy recovery times.
A blown knee, a broken ankle, a ruptured disc in his back: three good reasons for missing almost three whole seasons since he was the world's top-ranked junior for slalom and super-G in 2001.
In comparison, a couple of weeks off with a sprained knee, bruised ribs and facial cuts _ sustained in a high-speed training crash into safety netting _ is a minor occupational hazard.
"I've just been taking it easy after the spill in Bormio," Lanning said Thursday. "It's not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was a little tired today. I'll take tomorrow off but nothing bothers me on race day. Adrenalin takes the pain away."
The Montana-born resident of Park City, Utah, has produced on race days this season.
In the season's three downhills before Bormio he placed ninth, 13th and then 10th on a day in Val Gardena, Italy, that saw five Americans and two Canadians crowd the top 10.
Seventh that day was Erik Fisher, the 23-year-old from Middleton, Idaho. His first career top-10 finish came after he too lost a whole year because of a torn ACL at Lake Louise _ the same weekend that Hudec won.
Being at historic Wengen helps reminds him why the rehab time was worth enduring.
"It's history all over the place. It's really cool to be a part of it," said Fisher, who faces a challenging two minutes, 30 seconds-plus on the 2.8-mile downhill track Saturday.
"It's 30 seconds longer than any other course I've ever ridden," he said. "It's got jumps, it's got steeps, it's got big turns, an S-turn that's pretty quick. The place is amazing."
First, Fisher goes in a super-combined event Friday with a shortened downhill _ just 1.86 miles _ in the morning and an afternoon slalom.
The U.S. challenge is led by Bode Miller, who was third in the super-combi a year ago before winning his second straight Lauberhorn downhill.
The 31-year-old Miller was 17th fastest in downhill training Thursday, 1.95 seconds behind Andrej Jerman of Slovenia.


Updated : 2021-06-23 16:43 GMT+08:00