Hair's to you, Hudec

Canadian downhill skier Jan Hudec returned to the Calgary International Airport after winning the...

Canadian downhill skier Jan Hudec returned to the Calgary International Airport after winning the silver medal in the 2007 Alpine World Ski Championships in Are, Sweden, on Monday. Pictured with Hudec (left) is his wife Crystal and son Oakland, 11 months. (Sun Media/Kevin Udahl)

SCOTT FISHER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

If Jan Hudec is going to lead the next generation of Crazy Canucks, he figures he might as well look the part.

One day after recording Canada's best-ever downhill finish at the world championships in Sweden, the 25-year-old returned to the Stampede City.

And, with his silver medal garnering everyone's attention, barely anyone at the Calgary International Airport noticed his freshly shaved mohawk. Hudec's new hairstyle is the result of a bizarre backwards bet.

"The original bet, with our physical trainer, was that if we got on the podium, he'd have to shave a mohawk into his head," Hudec explained.

"But he was so confident in us, he said 'No way, I'm not making that bet. If you guys don't get on the podium, I'll shave my head. If you do, you shave your heads.'

"So we fell for it and we're men of our words."

Hudec, who admits to sporting a mohawk in the past, welcomed the new fashion statement: "It's not a bad price to pay for a medal."

Especially for an athlete who has spent more time in the trainer's room than the ski hill the last few years.

Hudec had back problems as a youngster and then tore his ACL at the second race of the 2003 season in Beaver Creek, Colo. He missed the rest of the season rehabbing the injury but disaster struck again the following year.

"I made it past Beaver Creek," he said. "Maybe I relaxed too much because I thought I made it past the tough one.

"I tore my knee up at the next race at Val d'Isere, France."

The rest of that season went down the drain as Hudec went back to physio. He tweaked his knee in training the next fall, underwent surgery, but got through by using a brace.

"I came back this year and started from scratch," he said. "I was starting in the 60s and with no snow in Europe, there have been some tough conditions at the back of the pack.

"I stayed patient and everything was perfect at the world championships. I was four one-hundredths off the podium in the Super-G and that gave me the confidence I needed for the downhill."

With teammate Erik Guay finishing just .02 of a second off the podium in the downhill and .03 away from a bronze in the Super-G, the future of Canadian skiing appears bright. With the Vancouver Olympics three years away, Hudec said Canadians can start getting excited.

"They'd better be," he said. "If they're not getting excited, they must be dead or something. We had a meeting with Ken Read and he almost had tears in his eyes, he was so excited about this team.

"He said this is the best downhill team Canada has ever had. Coming from a guy like that, who has an unbelievable history of success, and to be compared to guys like Steve Podborski and Jungle Jim Hunter, it's not really even imaginable."

Hudec and his teammates are continually pushing each other to greater heights.

"We have five guys on the downhill team and we all have a podium this year," Hudec said. "We all know we can beat each other.

"When they beat me, I want to kick their butts.

"It's the perfect team atmosphere."


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