KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Andris Sics called his brother "Terminator" on Wednesday after the Latvian luge duo won their nation's first medal in these Olympics. The nickname is not only because Juris Sics is tough. It's because he's filled with metal.
Less than three years ago, on a rainy day in May, Juris was on his way home from training when he lost control of his BMW. The car flipped several times and hit a tree. Sics had two broken hips, a broken pelvis, a broken collarbone and a damaged intestine. He was basically broken in half.
Andris rushed to the hospital. "I was angry," he said Wednesday, because his wife was expecting a child that day. He fought back the fear that his older brother would die on the day his son was born.
The entire Latvian luge team donated blood. Juris needed a five-hour operation to save his life. He had 18 screws inserted into his pelvis to hold it together. The screws remain there to this day. He was in the hospital for months, and the surgeon told the family to forget about sports.
"The doctors said, 'You'll never walk normally,' " Juris said.
When Juris recovered enough to put some thoughts together, he informed his brother: "First I am going to make a baby. Then we are going to win a medal."
Two weeks after the accident, on June 5, Andris' son was born. A year later, on June 5, Juris' son was born.
Wednesday, they rode together to the bronze, to go with the silver they won in Vancouver.
Latvia in itself is a minor miracle. The country consists of two million people gathered on a plot of land less than half the size of Louisiana. It was formed less than a century ago, then taken over by the Soviets, then invaded by the Nazis, then taken over again by the Soviets. A revolution began in 1987, when Juris was 4, and culminated in independence when the USSR fell in 1991. Latvians winning a medal on Russian soil is as improbable from a historical standpoint as Juris winning a medal was from a medical standpoint.
"We have always been dreaming about a free Latvia," Juris said Wednesday. "We are just two million people. This is a very big day."
Both Juris and Andris spoke hesitantly about the accident and the recovery. When first questioned, Juris didn't even want to go into it. A few moments later, though, on his way out of the press center, Andris explained that the brothers never really talk about it. It's too hard to think about, even now.
"I am just waiting to go into our room," Andris said, "to cry."
The Latvian anthem will not play here for these brothers. The Germans won gold and will stand atop the podium. Back home, though, they will sing loudly for these men – for the team that rushed to give blood, and for the medalist made of metal.