For United States Winter Olympians the Welcome Home parade on March 16 in Lake Placid will bring their Sochi experience full circle.
The two-time Winter Olympic site has become known for training athletes and producing Olympians, and Sunday, four of those Sochi competitors will celebrate their Olympic medals with the local community.
While many 2014 Olympians will march down the village’s Main Street Sunday evening, the night will belong to silver medalist Andrew Weibrecht (super-G), and bronze medal winners Erin Hamlin (luge), Steve Holcomb (bobsled), and Steve Langton (bobsled).
The foursome is part of a much larger community of athletes that prepare and compete yearly on Lake Placid’s venues.
In the case of Weibrecht, whose alpine skiing achievement may have been the most surprising U.S. medal in Sochi, the North Country skiers that congregate at Whiteface Mountain, where the 28-year old learned to ski and race, will turn out in force to celebrate at the parade’s termination point, which is the family’s Cottage Café.
Weibrecht, born and raised in Lake Placid, is a double Olympic medalist. He is a product of the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF), which trains student-athletes in alpine, freestyle, Nordic and snowboarding disciplines.
His parents, Ed and Lisa, own not only The Cottage Café, but the nearby Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa as well. They are offering a special rate for Sunday night guests who come for the parade, with a portion of those proceeds benefiting NYSEF.
“Growing up skiing at NYSEF allowed me the opportunities to develop as a skier in ways unique from many other programs,” Andrew told Snocountry.com from the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. “The world class venues at Whiteface were the perfect place to cut my teeth, and the staff at NYSEF gave me the tools to reach the level that I have.”
Ed Weibrecht, the family patriarch, told us, “At one point or another we had five kids go through NYSEF. The organization taught them to be strong and resilient.”
Andrew needed all of that training as he suffered through four surgeries between his bronze in Vancouver and silver in Sochi. He said through those years that the injuries and rehabilitation disrupted his training.
Weibrecht’s mother, Lisa, felt that the NYSEF years helped him persevere. “It’s such a great organization,” she said. “The kids are taught how to deal with the ups and downs because not every day will be a great day. They were also taught that even though skiing is an individual sport, you have to be part of a team.”
That all became evident in February. The blonde ski racer, whose bronze medal winning teammate Bode Miller said in Sochi that Weibrecht “stacks up so well over his skis,” had the reputation of being the fastest in the world for 20-30 seconds of every race. Perhaps it was a training camp with giant slalom gold medalist Ted Ligety, just prior to the Games, that helped Weibrecht put entire runs together.
It set him up for the race of his life at Rosa Khutor, despite a late start number and softening track.
Now, along with similar achieving athletes, this home grown product will display his silver medal on Sunday evening in front of a village that has given him the support and encouragement to succeed.
Photo: Andrew Weibrecht (middle) enjoys the 2010 Lake Placid parade after winning an Olympic bronze medal in super-G at Vancouver. Brother Ethan (left) and wife Denja (right) join him. (Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa)