Klug captures bronze | AspenTimes.com

Klug captures bronze

Eddie Pells
The Associated Press

PARK CITY, Utah – Aspen resident Chris Klug’s unbelievable comeback from liver transplant surgery reached a stunning crescendo Friday, when he won the bronze medal in the parallel giant slalom.

“This is the most fun day of my life,” said Klug, who only 19 months ago was in an operating room for the life-saving surgery.

Klug’s bronze gave the United States its 14th medal of the Winter Games, breaking the record last set in 1998.

A more detailed report compiled by Aspen Times reporter Tim Mutrie will appear in Monday’s paper.

Philipp Schoch of Switzerland, the second-slowest rider in qualifying Thursday, won the gold, defeating Sweden’s Richard Richardsson, who took silver.

Isabelle Blanc of France upset countrywoman and defending Olympic champion Karine Ruby to win the women’s gold medal. Lidia Trettel of Italy took the bronze.

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After winning his bronze, Klug hit his fist against his heart, then pointed over to his father, his girlfriend and the dozens of other overwhelmed friends and family who came to see him.

A few moments later, Klug scaled two retaining fences to share hugs with all his supporters. Tears flowed in some parts, but Klug just smiled, then headed back toward the finish line for the flower ceremony.

“I don’t even know what to say,” said Klug’s girlfriend, Missy April. “Everything he’s done is a miracle.”

In a sport dominated by Europeans, Klug’s bronze was unexpected. He qualified 11th of 16 finalists on Thursday. In the quarterfinals of the elimination event, he trailed Italy’s Walter Feichter by a significant .75 seconds after the first of two races.

Needless to say, Klug never gave up.

He put down a smooth run and Feichter fell, giving the Aspen, Colo., resident a spot in the final four and a chance at a medal.

Klug lost in the semis to Schoch, placing him in a two-race contest against Nicolas Huet of France for the bronze.

Klug won the first heat by a scant .15 seconds, but won by a bigger margin in the second, and the bronze was his.

“I’m so thrilled to see Chris do well,” said his father, Warren. “So grateful.”

Klug was the only American man to qualify for the finals.

The only American woman was Lisa Kosglow, who lost to Ruby in the quarterfinals and finished eighth. She, too, was caught up in Klug’s success story.

“It’s amazing,” Kosglow said. “Chris has been through a lot. What he’s overcome, just to be alive right now is amazing.”

The 29-year-old Klug’s victory came the day after National Organ Donor Day, and the Olympics were the perfect platform for him to send his message.

In 1993, Klug was diagnosed with the rare disease primary sclerosing cholangitis, a disorder that slowly eats away at the bile ducts’ ability to function.

It was the same disease that killed Walter Payton.

Klug didn’t feel the effects of the disease for a long time, but early in 2000, he began feeling sharp pains in his side. His condition had worsened, and he moved up the donor’s list.

His donor was a 13-year-old boy from the Denver area who had been accidentally shot in the head by a neighbor messing with a gun.

By choosing to donate their son’s organs, the boys parents saved Klug’s life.

It’s a debt he knows he can never repay, but he always said he hoped his success in the snowboarding world would help get the word out about organ transplants.