AJ Ginnis took silver for Greece’s first Olympic or world championships medal in any Winter Olympic program event, according to the International Ski Federation.
Ginnis, also 28, raced for the U.S. at the 2017 Worlds, then was dropped from the national team after the 2017-18 season following several injuries and a best World Cup finish of 26th.
He switched to his birth nation of Greece, where he had learned to ski at Mount Parnassus, a 2 ½-hour drive from Athens. He moved to Austria at age 12 and then Vermont three years after that.
“You put Greece on the map,” Johan Eliasch, president of the International Ski and Snowboard Federation, told Ginnis before handing him the silver medal at the awards ceremony, according to ESPN Sports.
Ginnis, who had six knee surgeries, tore an ACL last year and thought he was done with ski racing when he went to Beijing to work the Olympics for NBC. That experience lit a fire.
On Feb. 4, Ginnis finished second in the last World Cup slalom before worlds after never previously finishing in the top 10 of a World Cup race.
“When I came back, I told myself, my goal is to go into the next Olympic cycle being a medal contender,” he said. “Fighting back from injuries, getting cut from teams, trying to fundraise for what we’re doing now. … This is a dream come true on every level.”
It’s just a dream, the last two weeks. History for Greece, best moment in my career,” Ginnis said. “I can’t believe it. I don’t know what happened. During the run, I thought it was not enough and I just gave everything in the last gates.”
“I ski for Greece, so I ski free,” he said, adding with a laugh that he prayed to “all 12” Greek gods of Mt. Olympus before the race.
Ginnis does not blame the U.S. team for letting him go, according to NBC Sports.
“All credit to them,” he said after placing second in the first run Sunday. “They did develop me. I think for me it was like a will of wanting to ski for my home country because I did grow up there and then for them, I was a really injured athlete. So I don’t blame them at all for cutting the team when they did. It sure made things harder for me.”
Watch his winning run here:
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