Klug’s incredible journey from operating table to Olympic podium
US snowboarder Chris Klug had been on one of the most extraordinary journeys any Olympic competitor had been upon to reach the Games. A decade earlier, when he was just 19, Klug had been diagnosed with an incurable liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). His name was on put on the waiting list for a liver transplant and, in the meantime, he was advised to carry on living his life. He lived it to the full, competing in snowboarding contests and finishing sixth in the giant slalom at Nagano 1998.
However, after those Games his health began to deteriorate, with the possibility that his liver might fail completely, which could have been fatal. Then, after nearly seven years on the waiting list, Klug was told that a suitable organ had become available. On 28 July 2000, he underwent a liver transplant in Denver and the operation was a complete success.
Just a few days later, Klug was out of hospital and within a week he was back in light training. A month after the operation he was cycling at altitude and, just eight weeks after his transplant, Krug got back on his snowboard and hit the snow.
The following year, he won a major event in Italy and arrived in Salt Lake City with real hopes of a medal.
He didn't reach the final, but he did make the bronze medal match against France's Nicolas Huet, the reigning world champion. In the second race a buckle broke on Klug's boot. Other athletes might have become flustered and lost focus, but Klug had been through so much that this was nothing more than an irritation – he fixed it with some sticky tape and recovered to win a decisive second victory. The bronze medal was his – making him the first ever transplant patient to win an Olympic medal!