A month ago, Jan Hudec could barely walk. Now he has an Olympic medal around his neck.
The Calgary skier won bronze for Canada in the men's super-G on Sunday at the Sochi Olympics, tying American veteran Bode Miller for third in one minutes 18.67 seconds.
"To be standing here now, it's honestly unbelievable. I just feel really thankful and blessed," said Hudec. "It doesn't feel like it is my medal because there are so many people who helped me get to this point and help support me and stuck with me throughout the years.
"This is just the icing on the cake."
Kjetil Jansrud won the fourth straight Olympic super-G gold medal for Norway in 1:18.14 to help his country maintain its dominance in the Olympic event. Starting 29th, Andrew Weibrecht of the United States flew down the hill and wound up second, 0.30 seconds behind.
Hudec's bronze is Canada's for the first for a Canadian man since Edi Podivinsky's downhill bronze in 1994.
The 32-year-old Hudec herniated a disc in his lower back while training at the gym mid-January, but he recovered in time to go to the Sochi Games.
"When I first hurt myself it was brutal, and I could not walk for three days," said Hudec. "I thought I was out for the rest of the season but I just took it day by day and gradually built myself up again."
Hudec buried a loonie under the snow at the finish line of the downhill course before the race as a good luck charm for him and his Canadian teammates.
Morgan Pridy of Whistler, B.C., was the sixth skier to go down the hill and was the early leader. His time of 1:19.19 eventually put him in 10th.
Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Ivermere, B.C., tied for 24th in 1:20.19, while Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was disqualified.
"Jan's showing so much speed throughout his career and it's awesome that he can put it together on such big days," said Guay. "He's done it at world championships … he's had so many injuries that have kept him out of the game. He really showed up today and he threw it down in a big way with that start number. It's incredible and I'm thrilled for him as a teammate."
Miller is the oldest alpine skier to medal at 36. This was Miller's sixth Olympic medal, moving him two behind the all-time alpine leader Kjetil Andre Aamodt.
Norway has long ruled this Olympic discipline, with Aamodt winning in 2002 and '06, and Aksel Lund Svindal in 2010. Svindal struggled on Sunday and finished seventh place.
Miller surpassed one of Aamodt's marks, though, becoming the oldest skier to capture a medal. Aamodt was just over 34 when he won in 2006.
It's been a big Olympics for Jansrud, who also won bronze in the downhill.
He had only one World Cup victory entering the Olympics — in the super-G nearly two years ago — but has consistently skied very well on this inconsistent course.
"It feels perfect so far," Jansrud said of being an Olympic champion.
Weibrecht, who's nicknamed "War Horse," has been besieged by injuries since winning a surprise Olympic bronze medal in super-G four years ago in Vancouver. He has blown out each ankle and gone through surgeries on both shoulders. He also lost his sponsorship from the U.S. ski team for lacklustre results.
"It's unbelievable. I came down and knew I skied well. I knew I had a good run," Weibrecht said. "I came through the finish and appreciated my run. Then I took a couple of seconds and looked at the time, I saw two and looked away. I looked again and was like, 'You've got to be kidding me.'"