‘I’m taking it a year at a time’
Chris Klug hasn’t ruled out the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.Then again, the 33-year-old local also hasn’t ruled out retiring from snowboard racing at the end of this World Cup season.”At this point in my career, I’m taking it a year at a time,” said Klug, who won a bronze medal in parallel giant slalom at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. “I don’t know how many more years I’ve got left. The reason I’m back is I still love it. It’s still a lot of fun for me.”That love for competition is what has kept Klug positive in spite of a number of setbacks in the last year. In late January, he found out he wouldn’t be heading to his third straight Winter Olympics after an arbitrator ruled in favor of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s decision to leave him off its Olympic roster.Klug filed a grievance in a Denver court because he felt he deserved a spot on the team over Tyler Jewell, a Sudbury, Mass., native who trains at Steamboat.Neither rider notched a top World Cup finish during the season, which left USSA to pick one based off his two best results. Klug contested the way USSA interpreted the selection criteria in place to select Jewell, but the arbitrator upheld the organization’s decision. The disappointment of not competing in Italy only fueled Klug this past offseason, as he attacked his training at Mount Hood in Oregon with newfound motivation.
Then came another setback.In early August Klug broke his right tibia and separated his left shoulder during a training run when he caught an edge on a toeside turn. “I was just coming in pretty hot and just folded right over the nose,” he said. “I bent the board pretty bad. Fortunately the bone wasn’t displaced. … I was also lucky that I just separated the shoulder. It’s the same shoulder I broke at the [Winter] X Games two years ago. There’s still all the hardware in there from the surgery I had.”Klug spent an agonizing month hopping around on crutches, followed by two weeks in a walking boot. After a week back on the snow in late September, he left for Europe on Oct. 8 for the start of the World Cup season.His first two finishes were the result of having so little training time on snow, he said.He finished 21st overall in the first World Cup parallel giant slalom on Oct. 13 on an indoor course in Landgraaf, Netherlands. Nine days later on the glacier above Soelden, Austria, he made it into the head-to-head bracket of 16, but lost in his first showdown, finishing 16th.”I guess I was actually pleased to get two solid races in considering I broke my ankle just two months ago,” Klug said. “I knew I wasn’t 100 percent and that was tough. In the start I was kind of scratching my neck going, all right, I know I’m not 100 percent, but I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”
Klug and adversity have had a steady relationship during his 17-year career. His bronze medal at the Utah Winter Games came just a year and a half after he received a lifesaving liver transplant. The transplant came just months after he won his second World Cup race in 2000 and in the middle of a four-year quest to return to the Olympics after a disappointing sixth-place showing in Nagano, Japan, in 1998.Never one to give up, Klug knows the odds are stacked against him for making his third Olympic team. He said he won’t hesitate to jump into Life After Snowboarding if the results aren’t there.”I’m not ruling out ending my career in 2010 in Vancouver, but these next couple years I’ve got to be on the podium,” he said. “I’m happy to make it back in time and get a 16th and a 21st, but the objective is to win World Cups. Later in the season, that’s not going to cut it.”After 15 seasons riding for Burton, Klug switched to Kessler boards this past offseason. The Swiss company also sponsors brothers Phillipp and Simon Schoch, winners of the gold and silver medals at the Olympics in February who are the most consistent podium finishers on the World Cup circuit. Simon was second in the season-opening PGS in Landgraaf and won gold in Soelden a week later; Phillipp was fifth and third in both races.”It’s just time for a change,” Klug said. “They’re fast boards and they’ve definitely worked well for those two. I just need some more time on the snow getting used to the equipment.”Klug also managed to get married in the offseason, tying the knot in an outdoor ceremony in Sisters, Ore., with his long-time girlfriend, Missy.Don’t read into the marriage as a hint that this might be his last year on the circuit, Klug said.
Missy said the same thing herself.”I love watching him compete,” she said. “I want him to keep doing it as long as he wants to.”Which might be just for six months. Or another four years.At the moment, Klug said his main focus is his next set of races, a Continental Cup parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom at Copper Mountain on Nov. 20 and 21.In the past seven years, he has won at least one of the two races at Copper.”I’m excited to get back there,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s always the best U.S. and Canadian riders, but there’s some really good Euros there, too. It’s always been a good race for me at the beginning of the season.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Aspen Mountain opened for the season on Wednesday, a day earlier than originally planned. Top-to-bottom snowmaking, a solid recent storm and well-behaved guests made for a great experience despite all of the extra precautions.