Four years ago, Andrew Weibrecht charged down the super-giant slalom course at the Whistler Creekside Resort in British Columbia and won an Olympic bronze medal.
His strong showing at the Vancouver games was unexpected, as he had only once cracked the World Cup top 10 at that point, but that made the moment all the more special for the Lake Placid native and son of Mirror Lake Inn owners Ed and Lisa Weibrecht.
"It was sort of my goal forever," Weibrecht told the Enterprise recently about medaling at the Olympics.
Since then, the World Cup podium has been just as elusive for Weibrecht as it was before Vancouver due to a combination of injuries, illness and inconsistency. Over the last four years, Weibrecht has had surgeries on both his shoulders, one of which he dislocated in March 2010 and the other he dislocated the following December. He also had a pair of surgeries to repair an injured ankle. Last winter, he battled a virus for most of the first half of the season. In December of this year, he crashed during a race in Lake Louise, Alberta, and suffered a concussion and a bruised shin.
"I think more than anything, (the injuries) caused a lot of disruptions in my progression," he said. "I started to get things rolling again, and then I've got to take time off to recover."
In a recent Facebook post, Weibrecht called his bronze-medal run in Whistler his last "great race." His best result since then came in December 2011, when he took 10th place at a World Cup super-G at Beaver Creek, Colo. At one point he was moved from the "A" team to the "B" squad and therefore had to pay for some of his travel expenses.
Weibrecht admits the last few years have been the most challenging in his career.
"With the injuries and all that, it was really tough for a while," Weibrecht said. "It gets to a point where you can only be kicked so many times that you decide you don't want to be kicked any more."
Did he think of calling it quits?
"It never got quite got to that, but there's definitely been moments in the last few years where I've had to look at things and evaluate what was going on and what I was doing," Weibrecht said. "Hopefully that's behind now, and I'm trying to build every day and be a little better than I was before."
While the last four years have brought their share of challenges for Weibrecht, he's also had plenty of reasons to celebrate. In 2011 he bought a house in Lake Placid. In September 2012 he married his longtime girlfriend Denja Rand, a former ski racer, in his hometown.
Weibrecht also said the continued support he's received from family and friends back home has been a big motivator. That support has ramped up on the eve of his second Olympics.
"In the last couple days (after being named to the Olympic team), I've gotten a lot of emails and messages, and it's nice to know that people are watching and as excited about it as I am," he said.
Weibrecht said he's raced once and trained a few days at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, the site of the Olympic alpine ski races. He described it as a "pretty good venue" but said he had a weird experience in Russia.
"Just the culture and all that stuff," he said. "It's just a bizzaro world over there. No offense to anybody from there. Everything is just kind of quite a bit different, from the food to the amount of armed guards and things like that. It's kind of a little unfortunate that security is such a big issue with this venue. I just think it kind of takes away from it a little bit, especially after Vancouver, which was such a hospitable place."
Weibrecht said his wife and family won't come to the games, citing the hassle of getting visas, among other things. However, he said Denja, his mom and some other family traveled to Europe before the Olympics to spend some time with him on the World Cup tour.
Weibrecht is expected to race in super-G and potentially super combined (slalom and downhill) in Sochi. Asked what kind of result he'd be happy with, he said he just wants to be consistent and have the best races he can, regardless of where he finishes.
"For me, it's all about skiing runs that I can be proud of and feeling like I left everything out there, wherever that puts me," he said.
Despite the struggles of the last few years, Weibrecht said he's feeling pretty healthy now and is excited about racing.
"It's getting to be more and more fun now again," he said. "I really had a good time this winter, and I plan to keep going after (the Olympics). I definitely want to give it a shot at the (2015) World Championships in Beaver Creek -- that's kind of a big one. I don't have any plans of stopping quite yet and potentially want to keep going for a while longer."