Time to say good-bye: Snowboard retirements

07 May 2014 14:03
Gretchen Bleiler (USA) is one of the stars retiring
Gretchen Bleiler (USA) is one of the stars retiring -
GEPA Pictures

The end of the 2013/2014 season has marked the announcement of Snowboard athletes' retirement from active competition, many of whom have left a remarkable impact in the sport.

The biggest loss comes from alpine snowboarding as three of the world's most respected race boarders decided to step back after long careers. With Switzerland’s Philipp Schoch and his older brother Simon as well as Austrian icon Sigi Grabner, the top three of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin (ITA) have all retired.

Philipp Schoch was the first snowboarder to repeat his Olympic parallel giant slalom title from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics in a memorable duel with his brother. 'Filu' raced a total of 116 World Cups bringing home 26 podium finishes including 15 victories. The 34-year-old took two silver medals at FIS World Championships and set an all-time record in the 2004/05 winter with 13 podiums (10 victories) in 16 races.

His one-year-older brother Simon Schoch took Olympic silver in Turin and raced to a World Championship title in 2007 in Arosa (SUI) – again in a family duel in the final. In all, he earned a full set of World Championship medals with two silvers in 2003 and 2011, and a bronze in 2003. At World Cup level, Simon amassed 29 podium finishes including eight wins.

Meanwhile, Austria's veteran Sigi Grabner wrapped up his outstanding career after 142 starts and 34 top-three results, of which 14 were victories. In his 20-year professional career, the four-time Olympian took Olympic bronze in 2006 and became a World Champion on home soil in 2003. In addition, the two-time World Cup title winner, who runs – just like the Schoch brothers – his own board brand, has become the oldest rider in history to win a World Cup race (Sudelfeld (GER) 2012) at the age of 36.

'Time for a new generation of raceboarders as Philipp Schoch, Sigi Grabner and Simon Schoch step back' © Oliver Kraus 

Ingemar Walder (AUT) also announced his retirement. The 35-year-old had two podium finishes in 137 World Cup starts and represented his country at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games as well as at three editions of FIS Snowboard World Championships. Next season, he will work as new head coach for the Swiss national team.

Also joining the group of retiring athletes is Maximilian Köpf (GER). The 27-year-old started in 38 World Cup events and achieved his best career results with two 13th places.

In addition to the five Europeans stepping back in alpine snowboarding, two Canadians have decided to quit their competitive careers: Matthew Morison, a 27-year-old two-time Olympian who earned bronze at the 2009 FIS World Championships in Gangwon (KOR). During his World Cup career, the helicopter pilot collected four victories and nine additional podium finishes in a total of 69 races. His teammate, Michael Lambert, also represented Canada at two Olympicsand four World Championships. The 27-year-old finished twice on top of the World Cup podium in 67 starts.

Snowboard cross rider David Speiser (GER) officially announced his retirement. The two-time Olympian and 2008 X Games bronze medallist has seven podium finishes under his belt in 78 FIS World Cup competitions. He will end his professional career after more than ten years to concentrate on his studies.

On the freestyle side, two ladies called it a day.

Gretchen Bleiler (USA), a two-time Olympian who won silver in 2006, will no longer compete. The 33-year-old competed in 21 World Cup events, won five of them and placed on the podium eight additional times. The brightest smile in snowboarding retires as one of the sport’s most successful ladies with four X Games gold medals. Next to her winning performance she exposed millions to snowboarding through her modelling in famous magazines.

With Rana Okada, one of the most successful Japanese female riders, announced her retirement. The two-time Olympian earned her country’s best Olympic female halfpipe result as fifth-place finisher in Sochi. The newly-wed also represented Japan at three FIS World Championships and earned a victory and a third place finish in 14 World Cup starts.

FIS wishes all athletes all the best in their future endeavours!