Pain and Glory: Bill Hudson and Eric Keck

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Kitzbühel, Austria, 1991

It's Day One of training, and in this low-snow year, the fearsome Hahnenkamm is a sinister strip of vertical white ice on an otherwise snowless mountain. So does Eric Keck, making his first World Cup start, take it easy on his first trip down the world's most dangerous course? Nope. Downhillers are a different breed. The massive Vermonter lets go a throaty war whoop, charges out of the gate and launches huge air off the Mausfall. But his line is off-way off-and he lands with sickening violence outside the safety fence. A frantic teammate rushes to his aid, fearing the worst. But mighty Keck, dangling blood-soaked gauze from each nostril, rises to his feet, brandishing a twisted ski, and lets go another rebel yell. Miracle? In 50 years of racing, no one has ever cleared that fence. But less than an hour later, another American achieves the same feat, landing well beyond Keck's crater. Bill Hudson is less lucky: punctured lung, lacerated kidney, multiple fractures, three months of double vision. He spends the week in Kitzbühel's hospital, where the choppers deliver fresh roommates daily, courtesy of the Hahnenkamm. Hudson returns for another year on the circuit, but now admits, "I'm not sure I ever fully recovered from that one."