Canadian skier Jan Hudec has considered writing a book about his life.
He just doesn’t know where to start.
There is certainly plenty of fodder for the personable 32-year-old Calgary resident if he decides to put pen to paper. He could write about his family’s unique journey to Canada when he was a young child. There are also several stories from his 15-year run on the national alpine team.
Maybe he’ll weigh in on his experiences over the last year or two, when Hudec added business owner duties to a plate already quite full with fatherhood and skiing responsibilities. His path is one that has been rewarding and challenging at the same time.
“A couple of times I’d be coming home from work at two in the morning, like walking home,” he recalled in a recent interview. “Just dicey, and you know, sharing my dinner with homeless guys. They saw me in a suit but I was literally like this close to being in the position that they’re in.
“I was just completely reflecting on my life on a 30-minute walk home. It all looks hunky dory but any second it could go either way. It just brings a lot of things into perspective and keeps you focused.”
At the time, Hudec was trying to get an optometry business off the ground, part of his effort to get career plans in place for when his skiing days come to an end.
Hudec had an early vision of the concept and some contacts in the industry. When the business opportunity first came up, he jumped at the chance.
“It just fit with my lifestyle and my career and the places that I’ve been,” he said. “The fashion and the style — it’s the kind of stuff that I was interested in.”
Hudec now owns a clinic in downtown Calgary, the fruits of a challenge he first took on back in 2012. He chuckles at some of the trying times along the way, especially when he was gearing up for major competitions.
“I’m racing in Europe — like Langen, Kitzbuehel and world championships — the three biggest races of the year, and I’m getting phone calls from contractors at two in the morning,” he said. “It’s like a total Gong Show. It was a huge learning experience. It was definitely a bit of a distraction.
“But at the end of the day, the things I learned from that I can take into the business moving forward and not make those same mistakes again.”
Hudec is also busy training and skiing on the World Cup circuit as he prepares for the Sochi Olympics. He also tries to devote as much time as possible to his seven-year-old son, Oakland.
At times it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
“I have no friends anymore,” Hudec said with a laugh. “Everyone thinks I fell off the face of the Earth. I haven’t called (my friends), oh man. I call people when I need help with the business or whatever else.
“There’s a few friends that probably think I’ve disowned them but hopefully in the next couple years I can bring all that back.”
A busy lifestyle hasn’t hampered Hudec’s performance on the slopes.
He recently won silver in the super-G at Val Gardena, Italy, one of four top-10 showings so far this season. Hudec and teammates Erik Guay and Manuel Osborne-Paradis will lead a strong Canadian men’s alpine team into Sochi.
“Jan’s story is something really unique,” said Canadian teammate Brad Spence. “He has unbelievable talent and feel on the snow but he’s also one of the most mentally tough athletes I know.
“You can slap him in the face with adversity and he doesn’t take long to bounce back.”
Hudec was born in Sumperk, Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) in 1981 and spent his formative years on the slopes in Europe. His family spent a few years in Germany and they would drive to Austria on the weekends to ski.
Hudec’s parents loved the sport — his mother Vladi was a cross-country skier and father Jan was a downhiller.
They moved to Canada in 1986 and settled in Alberta. Red Deer was home before the family moved to Banff in 1993 so that Hudec’s parents could work at the Mountain Ski Academy.
In 1999, Hudec made the national alpine team and he settled in Calgary in 2002 to pursue more dryland training.
He showed some of his potential the following season, picking up a seventh-place finish in the super-G at the world championships. Hudec’s breakout season came in 2007, when he won world silver in the downhill.
It was the first medal by a Canadian men’s alpine racer at the world championships or Olympic level since Edi Podivinsky took downhill bronze at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer.
Hudec also won World Cup gold at the Lake Louise downhill in late 2007 but his season ended a couple months later when he tore a knee ligament.
Injuries have been a running theme throughout Hudec’s career.
He has endured six operations on his right knee and another on his left.
Hudec’s six-foot 205-pound frame is feeling pretty good this season, although he has been nursing a sore back of late. He feels the injuries have made him more tenacious and focused both on and off the slopes.
Hudec also feels mentally and physically stronger and has learned how to train better. He credits preparation, belief and perseverance for his longevity on the circuit.
“I think the biggest thing even now, I’m getting older and just with what my knees have been through, I should be getting worse,” he said. “But you find yourself actually working smarter at the end.
“You become a more mature athlete.”
Hudec made his Olympic debut at the Vancouver Games in 2010, finishing 23rd in the super-G and 25th in the downhill.
The veteran skier said he’s excited about returning to the Olympic stage. And he just might generate more material if he does write that book down the road.
“It just seems that (things) keep continuing so it might be a year or two,” he said of his literary pursuits. “Maybe after an Olympics. It might be icing on the cake, who knows?”
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