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Snowboarder Chris Klug Reflects on his Comeback after Liver Transplant - 2002-02-17

U.S. olympic snowboarder Chris Klug won the bronze medal Friday in the men's giant parallel slalom. The win marks a comeback for an athlete who says he is lucky just to attend the games.

Chris Klug was suffering from a rare liver disease when he received a liver transplant in 2000. Up on his snowboard in just seven weeks, he made an amazing comeback the following season. Saturday, the 29-year-old athlete reflected on the journey.

"It's been awesome," he said. "It's a miracle I'm here and coming away yesterday with a bronze medal on our home turf only five hours from my home of Aspen, it's a dream come true in front of all my friends and family, in front of our whole country. I couldn't ask for any better."

Chris Klug says he had a home-field advantage, with an enthusiastic crowd of supporters. "Pulling into that stadium was something else, 10,000 or 20,000 people cheering," he recalled. "You could hear it up in the start gate when I was pulling out. I got the chills a few times. Pulling out of the start gate, I had to take a few deep breaths and just relax and remember what I was doing because I want to do well so badly that sometimes it can get in the way. So I just had to relax and enjoy, and then when I got into the finish area, especially after I knew I won the bronze, it was a pretty nice feeling."

Chris Klug is the first transplant recipient to receive an Olympic medal. He says he owes his presence here to the donor family, whose 13-year-old son was killed in a shooting accident in Denver. The day the snowboarder won the bronze was coincidentally Organ Donor Awareness Day in the United States.