Olympic medallist Jan Hudec left off ski team in dispute with Alpine Canada
Skier Jan Hudec speaks at a news conference announcing a new sponsor in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Olympic bronze medallist Hudec has been dropped from Canada's alpine ski team for next season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CALGARY Olympic bronze medallist Jan Hudec has been dropped from Canada's ski team because of a dispute with Alpine Canada.
The organization says Hudec has refused to show proof of progress on his return from a knee injury. Hudec disagrees, saying the impasse is about money and Alpine Canada's lack of faith in his ability to ski fast again.
Alpine Canada named a total of 35 skiers to its 2016 17 alpine, ski cross and para alpine rosters Monday. A dozen men, including Erik Guay, Manny Osborne Paradis and Erik Read, son of former star skier Ken Read, were named to the men's slalom and speed teams, but Hudec was a key omission.
Hudec tied for third in super G at the 2014 Winter Olympics for Canada's first medal in men's alpine skiing since 1994. But the 34 year old from Calgary started just one race last season a super G in Lake Louise, Alta. and did not finish it because of a knee injury. He underwent an eighth surgery on his right knee last month.
Alpine Canada contends Hudec was initially named to the men's alpine speed team for next season under a "coaches discretion" clause in the selection criteria, but his selection was subject to Hudec proving progress in his rehabilitation under Alpine Canada testing and monitoring.
He had not done so prior to Monday's team announcement, according to athletic director Martin Rufener.
"He has a rehab program," Rufener explained. "We gave him guidelines that should be done. We said 'we'll name you to the team, but you have to have these benchmarks to show us.' We need checkpoints each month.
"Up until this time, he couldn't sign off on this. It's up in the air. Maybe in a month he comes back and says 'I want to do it' hopefully."
But Hudec disagreed with Alpine Canada's version of events.
Reached in San Diego prior to a flight to Calgary, Hudec says he couldn't sign off on the financial details in an athletes' agreement with the organization.
"Every single time I agreed to the physical requirements," Hudec told The Canadian Press. "I did not agree to the other stuff."
The other stuff was the cost Hudec would pay for his own ski service. The cost was negotiated down from $70,000 to $35,000, but still $10,000 higher than anyone else on the team, he said.
Hudec also said if he wasn't ranked in the world's top 30 within the first few races of next season, he would have to fund the rest of his season himself.
"I'd have to completely crush the first couple of races to have a chance to ski with the team for the rest of the season," Hudec said. "They basically didn't budget for me. That's the gist of it. That's how I felt.
"I was very clear that I wanted to continue, that I'm committed to it," Hudec continued. "I wasn't skiing slow when I got injured."
Knee and back injuries have limited Hudec to nine World Cup starts since the Winter Games.
Despite an injury filled career, Hudec has produced an Olympic bronze, a world championship silver and five World Cup medals.
He earned his medal in Sochi despite being bedridden a few weeks earlier with a herniated disc.
"I just feel like everything I've put forth in my career and my commitment to the team, and putting down results even when everyone else was saying it wasn't possible or doable, speaks for itself," Hudec said.
Hudec's teammate Dustin Cook, a world silver medallist in super G in 2015, sat out this season with a knee injury and subsequent surgery. Cook, 28, was named to the team Monday.
Cook is working with Alpine Canada's physiotherapists and strength and conditioning coach, while Hudec has worked with medical and rehab personnel outside the organization's umbrella.
Alpine Canada reserves the right to limit the size of the team "due to availability of financial resources regardless of nomination criteria achieved."