Canadian Cowboy and Sochi 2014 super-G bronze medalist Jan Hudec announced that he intends to represent the Czech Republic in future ski seasons while competing on an independent professional team.
Alpine Canada Alpin (ACA) recently approved the 34-year-old athlete’s request to represent his family’s native land, and the request is now pending FIS approval.
Hudec and his family fled the former Czechoslovakia when he was 10 months old and has called Canada home ever since.
“I don’t want to disappoint people,” Hudec told Canada’s National Post. “People know me. They know my heart. I am Canadian. I will always be Canadian. But I’m also Czech … It’s tough. I’ve always worried about what other people thought my whole life. But when you get older, you start thinking about your future a little more.”
The move was prompted after Hudec refused to meet the conditions outlined by ACA to further compete on the Canadian ski team, and he was subsequently left off of the 2016-17 roster. Hudec, who has sustained both back and knee injuries since winning bronze in the 2014 Games, has not completed a race since Dec. 6, 2014.
Hudec started in the Lake Louise super-G this past season but could not complete the course due to pain, so he opted to undergo his ninth knee surgery. He was ultimately unable to meet national team qualifying criteria. After a dispute with ACA over his costs of competing as a discretionary member of the national team, in which he was asked him to pay $35,000 toward the costs of a ski technician, Hudec made the decision to part ways and find alternate avenues for funding and representation.
“It is important to know that we continued to work with Jan after the team selection was announced, and let him know that we were more then willing to find accommodation that would enable him to return to the team,” said ACA executives in an open letter. “However, at this stage of Jan’s career, he is making a decision that can best meet his desire to fulfill and lead a different way of life, that reaches beyond ski racing.”
Hudec, who lives part-time in the Czech Republic, has signed on to compete as a member of S-Team, an upstart professional ski team led by former Canadian speed coach Lionel Finance. According to the Post, this deal should meet Hudec’s athletic needs on and off the hill, and puts him in a position to break even – or potentially even make money – in the upcoming season as opposed to having to pay to compete for Canada.
Hudec also launched a mobile application in conjunction with Core Platform Canada in January called pandaHAUS, which aims to act as a social networking and fundraising tool for snowsports athletes.
As a member of the Canadian team, Hudec amassed 109 World Cup starts dating back to 2002. He has two World Cup downhill wins to his name, one in Chamonix in 2012 and one in Lake Louise in 2007, three other podiums, a World Championship downhill silver medal in 2007, as well as Canada’s first Olympic alpine medal in 20 years when he tied Bode Miller for bronze in the super-G in Sochi.
“Nothing is going to change what I give back to the sport and how proud I am to be Canadian,” he told the National Post. “It’s just going to be a different thing beside my name on the TV screen.”