Anja Paerson on retirement and her role on the FIS Athletes' Commission
Anja Paerson is a ski racing legend. After retiring last season, she left an extraordinary legacy behind:
6 Olympic medals
11 World Championship medals
95 World Cup podiums
2 World Cup Overall titles and 5 Discipline Titles.
Total= 119 medals.
Anja Paerson stepped up onto the highest level-podium 119 times in her career. These achievements would be like climbing almost twelve flights of stairs and at each individual stair being given another medal of the highest caliber. Thinking about the amount of hardware she must have at her house, decorating her mantle, or buried and long forgotten, is mind boggling. Anja dominated ski racing for a long time. She set the highest standards and stood on the podium for eleven consecutive seasons in all disciplines. She won her first World Cup race at 17 years old in a slalom at Mammoth Mountain, California; she won her last World Cup race at 30 years old in a Downhill at Tarvisio, Italy. Over the years and across the board Anja achieved many great successes and was constantly making ski-racing history. Not only was she making ski racing history, but she was also serving as a leader for her peers the past four years as a member of FIS Athletes' Commission. Paersons role gave her the opportunity to be the voice for positive change for her fellow Alpine Athletes.
The purpose of the Athletes’ Commission is to discuss and address issues concerning athletes in general. Through her role on the FIS Athletes' Commission Anja's goal was to give back to the sport through helping the athletes gain more power and a bigger voice.
“If you want a change in your sport you should be active and try to help and work for it. I believe every athlete that takes his/her sport seriously has a responsibility. Not only for themselves, but also for the future athletes. If I can give something back to my sport and other winter sports then I would be happy. Hopefully I can be part of a change where the athletes gain more power and a bigger voice.”
After her four years serving on the commission as an Alpine representative, Paerson feels that she has succeeded in helping voice the athletes and incur a positive impact. Catching up with her recently, Anja reflects on retirement and her role as a leader for Alpine skiers on the FIS Athletes commission.
“My ambition to join the FIS Athlete Commission was that I knew if I wanted to change anything I would have to get involved. Not just sit on the side and wait for someone else to do it for me. I needed to take responsibility for my career in the World Cup.”
This type of leadership role comes up every two years at the FIS Athletes' Commission elections. This year will see the end of Anja's four year role as an athlete representative, and could either see her re-elected or see a new athlete elected to represent the Alpine Skiers. The criteria for elections it that the athlete should be an "active", having competed at the previous World Champs (2011) or at World Cup level in season 2010/11.
Anja believes in taking responsibility for change and that it is possible to both compete and be a member of the Athletes' Commission. Does it work? Pareson believes that it does “It works. In the Commission, we try to talk at least four times per year on a conference call and meet once in combination with the FIS Technical Meetings. When we have meetings we try to talk to the decision makers about our issues. It is good to see that they listen to us even if the work we do might only be put in practice in some years-time.”
Not only is it working, but Paerson feels that it's important for all athletes to get involved: “It is interesting to work across the disciplines and learn about what it is all about there and what the Commission can do for them. To understand that if you want change you need to do the work. It is not super hard but it is really important to get involved. Don't sit and think, “it does not impact me”. It really does!”
And now? Pearson is enjoying her new role as a mother and being able to enjoy ski racing from a distance.
“It feels great not to race any more. I really had a great career and I feel happy about that. When I see the girls racing now I just enjoy watching nice skiing. I do miss all the girls and the nice family from the FIS World Cup. My life now is full of job and also being a mother. It is hard to adapt in to "normal life" it is no on or off button. Always on but it feels great to stay home and not travel so much. When I see some nice conditions when the girls are doing speed I really feel that it would be fun to go. But then I remember how much work it is behind and then I am happy on the sofa. But I will always miss the adrenaline racing down a downhill.”
Thank you to Anja for your insights and contributions as a member of the FIS Athletes' Commission, but most of all, congratulations on a truly amazing career!
The FIS Athletes' Commission Elections happen again in 2013. More information can be found here.
By: Anna Goodman