Time to say good-bye: Alpine retirements

23 April 2014 15:02
Maria Hoefl-Riesch
Maria Hoefl-Riesch -
Agence Zoom

It is not uncommon for athletes to plan their careers in four-year cycles, aiming to be at their best during the Olympic year. So it is no surprise that at the end of this season, several athletes have decided to bid farewell to their skiing careers and move on to new adventures.

One of the first athletes to make his future plans known was French skier Gauthier de Tessieres who announced his retirement at the beginning of February. After 14 years on the French National Team, the silver medalist of the Schladming 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in super-G decided he would not defend his medal at next year’s events in Vail-Beaver Creek. A few months later, his teammates Thomas Frey and Maxim Tissot also both announced that they would hang up their skis.

On the ladies’ side, 33-year-old Fränzi Aufdenblatten (SUI) announced her retirement just days after reaching her personal best at a major event – sixth place in the Sochi super-G. Sochi was the third Olympic Winter Games for Aufdenblatten

On the men’s side, the races in Kranjska Gora (SLO) were the ideal backdrop for three athletes to retire – Slovenia’s Mitja Valencic, Japan’s Akira Sasaki and Canada’s Mike Janyk all skied their last World Cup runs. While that was the last competition for Sasaki, both Valencic and Janyk still competed in national races at the end of the season. Janyk, whose biggest achievement is a bronze medal at the Val d’Isere 2009 World Championships marked his retirement by racing the Canadian Championships in a pair of Lederhosen.

At the season Finals in Lenzerheide (SUI), it was time for two veterans to ski their last runs. 33-year-old Italian Denise Karbon and 34-year-old Finn Tanja Poutiainen ended their successful careers on the same day. The two tech specialists own a total of three World Cup giant slalom titles (Poutiainen 2005, 2009; Karbon 2008). Poutiainen also won the slalom globe in 2005. During their long careers, Karbon celebrated six World Cup victories in giant slalom while Poutiainen stood on top of the podium five times in giant slalom and six times in slalom. It was an emotional farewell for both skiers as many current and former teammates and coaches greeted them at the end of their last runs.

The biggest news came a few days after the Finals when 29-year-old German ski star Maria Hoefl-Riesch announced she would not be returning to competition. Hoefl-Riesch won three golds and one silver Olympic medal, six World Championships medals, six World Cup titles - one overall, one downhill, one super-G, two slalom, one combined, and 27 World Cup races.

"I gave everything I had for another Olympic medal. I worked hard to fulfill this dream again. It went well in the super combined in Sochi, and this was a big relief for me. The decision was not easy but I am of the opinion you should stop when you are at your best,” she explained.

Great Britain's most successful alpine skier Chemmy Alcott also announced her retirement. Alcott had five top-ten results, and participated in four consecutive Olympic Games, and five World Championships. After achieving her goal of recovering from a horrific leg injury and competing in Sochi, she decided to hang up her skis.

Last but not least, Austria’s Stefanie Koehle and Lichtenstein’s slalom specialist Marina Nigg also retired. Koehle finished in third place in the 2012/13 Soelden giant slalom, while Nigg retires after 16 top 30 World Cup results.

FIS wishes all the athletes who retired all the best in their future endeavors and hope to see them back on the slopes in whatever new roles they decide to undertake.