Alpine Skiing

Kerrin Lee-Gartner - Monday Feb. 17, 2014 22:48

Emotional days for Alpine Canada’s ski family

Jan Hudec ends the medal drought, but skiers mourn two deaths in the family

Ed Podivinsky in Lillehammer in 1994, and Jan Hudec in Sochi in 2014
Ed Podivinsky in action in Lillehammer in 1994, and Jan Hudec in Sochi in 2014 (Steve Powell/Allsport and Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images)

On February 16th, Jan Hudec ended the 20-year Olympic medal drought for Alpine Canada.

The last Canadian alpine Olympic medal was won by Ed Podivinsky at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994. It took “the Panda” just under a minute and a half to end the drought and become a household name.

Jan Hudec. Jan himself pronounces his last name one of two ways: “Hudek” is the way his name has been said by class mates, friends and the ski racing community since Jan was a young boy. His family, Jan senior and his mom Vladi have always used the Czech pronunciation of “Hudetz.”

Jan, as Canadians are coming to realize, is an easy-going character, generous of spirit and very kind hearted. Always the people pleaser, it was difficult for Jan to determine which way to say his name, but two years ago, he settled on “Hudetz.” That said, I have since overheard him introduce himself as “Hudek” – it seems he is also indecisive!

Jan’s story of resiliency is a good one: it warms our hearts, and fills us with the belief that dreams can come true. His community spirit and genuine nature is what gives athletes and his team a good name.

As Canadians come to know Jan, they will embrace his kindness, his tenacity and his quirkiness. Yes, “Panda” is quirky, funny, somewhat odd and very likeable. What you see is what you get – how refreshing!

Canadian ski fans have been waiting for the drought to be over; for 20 years and four Olympic Games they have been imagining a Canadian on the Olympic podium.

The Canadian alpine ski family is a tight-knit community. We feel each other’s successes and failures. We relate to the effort and commitment needed to achieve excellence. We share the joys and the sorrows together.

This ski family watched and cheered as Jan stormed down the mountain. Racing with a broken and sore body, they willed him to succeed and celebrated with him as he crossed the finish line. This ski family of mine felt his excitement and we shared his joy.

On the same day the drought ended, Ed Podivinsky received a phone call that his big brother Tom passed away in a tragic ski accident in Montana.

We share his sorrows.

We also lost a father during these Olympic Games: warm-hearted Wilf Stemmle, father of Brian and Karen, passed away on Feb. 9.

My conflicted heart remains full with Olympic spirit, yet it is sad and aching for my ski family.

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