Hall of Fame Class of 2015
From the first time he bungee-strapped Moon Boots to a Burton Backhill, Chris Klug has been a passionate snowboarder, determined not only to win an Olympic medal, but to spread awareness of the need for organ donors.
Chris Klug was born to a family of skiers in Vail, Colorado. When he was four, the family moved to Bend, Oregon. His home hill, Mt. Bachelor, was a mecca for “shredders”, and by the time he was ten, he became one of them.
Snowboard competition was still decades away from the Olympics but contests were gaining momentum and Chris was at the starting gate collecting hardware in all the events: half pipe, moguls and slalom. Speed ruled and by the time he was 19, he was a full-time pro headed to his first World Cup slalom in Garmisch, Germany.
When he turned 21 and at the top of his game, a routine physical delivered a diagnosis that for most people would have forced them off the mountain. He had primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a rare liver disease, the same condition that took the life of football great, Walter Payton. While Chris understood the seriousness of his illness, he still felt strong, and he didn’t let the news cloud his focus for Nagano and the first Olympics for alpine snowboarding. He went to Japan in 1998 and finished seventh, determined more than ever to place at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake. His liver disease, however, would trump that target.
By 2000, he had no choice but to undergo a liver transplant. After three months on the critical list, a donor matched and surgeons performed a six hour surgery to save his life. From the moment he woke in recovery, Chris remembers, “It felt like some had dropped in a new V-8 engine.”
Now unstoppable, he spent the next 18 months preparing for the Salt Lake Games, where Klug would go on to win the bronze in Parallel Giant Slalom. From transplant to triumph, Chris became the first organ recipient to not only compete in the Olympics, but to also make the podium.
In 2003, he launched the Chris Klug Foundation – raising awareness for tissue and organ donation. His book, “To the Edge and Back: My Story from Organ Transplant Survivor to Olympic Snowboarder”, was published in 2004.
At 37, this King of the Comeback was at his third Olympics. He placed seventh at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Canada, wrapping up a remarkable 19 year career.
Chris and wife, Missy, live in Aspen with their two children, the perfect place to gratify his mantra, “Don’t take a turn for granted, and enjoy the ride.”
1983: Began snowboarding
1990: Competed at his first World Cup in Garmisch, Germany
1998: 6th place at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan
2000: Succesful liver transplant in Denver, Colorado
2002: Bronze Medal at Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah
2003: Founded the Chris Klug Foundation
2004: Released “To the Edge and Back: My Story from Organ Transplant Survivor to Olympic Snowboarder
2010: 7th place at Olympics in Vancouver, Canada
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