Around the time Lisa Clune graduated from Scotia-Glenville High School in 1975, she switched sports, from skiing to luge and two years later won the U.S. women’s national championship. Then she walked away from competing, just about when making the Olympic team in time for the 1980 games in Lake Placid seemed like the goal for every American winter athlete.
Years later, any regrets?
“None at all. Enjoyed it when I was doing it but when it is over, it is over.”
Well being an Olympian may not have been on Clune’s radar at the time, but a generation later the Winter Olympic Games have become a significant part of her life. In less than a month, she will be off to Pyeongchang, South Korea, to watch her son, Andrew Weibrecht, try for a third Olympic medal.
Andrew is the middle of Lisa and Ed Weibrecht’s three sons, and there are two older daughters as well. He is now clearly the most accomplished male skier ever from our region. Born and raised in Lake Placid, where his parents own The Mirror Lake Inn, he won a bronze medal in the Super G at the 2010 Games in Vancouver and followed that up four years ago in Sochi with a silver medal in the same event. No other alpine racer from our region has won even one Olympic medal since downhill ski competition was introduced in the 1936 games.
That makes Lisa Weibrecht our “First Mom of Skiing!”
Don’t expect to see her lugging a lunch basket into the base lodge these days, or hauling a bulging bag filled with extra gloves, hats and warm parkas to go over skimpy race suits after races. She did all that.
“When he was younger, I was there for much of his racing.” she said of Andrew recently. “I was his ride!”
Andrew Weibrecht competes in the men’s Super G race in the 2017 FIS alpine skiing World Cup in Avon, Colo., on Dec. 1. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
But Andrew is now 31 and married to Lake Placid native Denja Rand, whose dad Jay was an Olympic ski jumper and the former mountain manager at Whiteface and head of the New York Ski Education Foundation. They have a 2-year-old daughter.
Recently, there has been considerable attention given to the role of ski mom brought about by stories on the very close — some might say “hovering” — relationship between racing phenom Mikaela Shiffrin, soon to be 23 and already a world and Olympic champion, and her mom, who travels to all the competitions worldwide and oversees her daughter’s training. Unusual? Sure, but clearly this has worked for the Shiffrins.
This is not the Lisa Weibrecht version of “Ski Mom,” though.
“I have not been a racer chaser,” she says, noting the role many parents play as their children participate in competition.
“This is Andrew’s world. I am thrilled by his accomplishments but the pride comes from what kind of a person he is. We have provided the tools, but he has done it on his own.”
The Weibrecht family did see Andrew win his bronze medal in Vancouver. But none went to Sochi. “Andrew didn’t like the place. He didn’t want us to go. We watched him race on TV.” Lisa will be the only family member in Pyeongchang.
Andrew grew up chasing older brother Jonathan down the slopes at Whiteface. The brothers were competitive. Because the family’s work schedule was busiest during holiday periods, the boys were home-schooled. Winter days were often spent on the snow.
So who was the fastest skier among the boys?
“Ethan, the youngest,” Lisa said. “He chased the other two. I think Andrew would say the same thing.”
Jonathan now lives in New York City, where he is an investment banker. Ethan lives in Utah and competes in free rider extreme skiing events. For Andrew, it is year 13 as a member of the U.S. ski team.
The U.S. ski team will pick its Olympic racers later this month. A maximum of four can be entered in any of the competitions, and Andrew’s strongest event has been the Super G, a combination of near downhill speed with wide slalom gates. (Among the others competing for a start is Tommy Biesemeyer from Keene.)
Andrew Weibrecht has a great Olympic resume. In length, it is second only to his list of surgeries — six — over the course of his racing career. Like all elite athletes, years of competition have taken a toll on the body.
Will he retire from racing after Pyeongchang?
Lisa says she doesn’t know.
But he is different now, she says. “He has changed since becoming a dad. He has softened. Two-year-old Adalina controls him.”
Andrew will become a father for a second time in June, and he has just a couple of terms remaining to get his college degree from Dartmouth.
But before any of that, there is an Olympics race to run. Based on past success, Andrew knows what it takes to be at the head of the pack. And “First Mom” will be there to watch.
“He’s had a great run. I am so thrilled for him,” she said.
Lisa’s mom, Judy, and brother Brian still live in Glenville. Brother Jack lives in Chestertown, near Gore Mountain.
Among the first ski trains in the East was the Schenectady to North Creek run in the 1930s. An effort to revive the ski train a couple of years ago lasted just one winter but it is still a pretty day trip on tracks along the Hudson River. The Saturdays-only train leaves the Saratoga Springs station at 11 a.m., arrives in North Creek at 1:15 p.m. and returns to Saratoga at 4.
Have just learned that Helen Cornwall of North Creek passed away in November at age 100. “Miss Helen” ran the children’s center at Gore Mountain from its beginning in 1964 through the mid-1990s, in some instances caring for three generations of families at the mountain.
Yes it has been cold in recent days. If you skied full days and still managed to have warm hands at the end, let me know what gloves or mittens you used. I am sure I’m not the only one who would like to know.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].
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