Former Olympian Chris Klug can relate to Vic Wild's plight
Feb 22, 12:00pm EST
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Chris Klug remembers a brief period when, as a snowboard racer in America, he didn't have to scrape for every little thing he got.
Klug, who suffered from a rare liver disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis, won the Olympic bronze medal in parallel giant slalom for the United States in 2002, only 19 months after receiving a life-saving transplant.
He's retired now. He was heading for a hike in the mountains near Aspen on Saturday morning, a few hours after American-born Vic Wild won his second gold medal for his adopted country, Russia.
"Some of my favorite memories were scraping together winnings from one event, at 17, 18, 19 years old, and finding my way to the next race," Klug said. "But I remember thinking, 'How am I going to do this for the long term?'"
Funding got better after the bronze medal, and that respite carried him through the 2006 Games. Then the Great Recession hit and America's racers were left to essentially fend for themselves. Klug did just that, finding a few sponsors and forming his own team. He made the 2010 Olympic squad and finished seventh.
These days, he works in the real estate market in Aspen and also holds up to 75 fundraising events for the Chris Klug Foundation, which promotes the message of tissue and organ donation.
He's happy for Wild, but feels for the teammates he left behind.
"To dedicate yourself 100 percent to the goal, it takes resources and support," Klug said. "That hasn't been there for these athletes."
Embedded video_content_type: Vic Wild: To Russia with love