One of the greatest athletes in FIS Snowboard history announced his retirement on Thursday, as France’s Pierre Vaultier stated that he would be stepping away from competition due to complications from inflammatory arthritis of the knee.
As the two-time reigning Olympic snowboard cross gold medallist from the Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Games, the Sierra Nevada 2017 world champion, a six-time snowboard cross crystal globe winner (2008, 2010, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018), and the owner of 22 career World Cup wins and 35 total podiums, Vaultier retires as one of the most decorated athletes in FIS Snowboard World Cup history.
His two Olympic golds matches him with Seth Wescott (USA) as the only athlete to repeat an SBX Olympic triumph, while his six SBX crystal globes ranks as the most all-time in either the men’s or the women’s rankings. Meanwhile, his 22 World Cup wins and 35 podiums puts him head and shoulders above the rest of the men’s field for the most of all time.
In a statement, the 33 year-old outlined his long and eventually unsuccessful struggle to return to competition form over the past two seasons.
“After 17 months of fighting to get back on my feet from inflammatory arthritis of the knee, the indicators are still showing red. While the pathology is still unknown, what we do know is there has been a total deterioration of the cartilage of the knee joint, leaving the only solution to be an installation of a full prosthesis, with the surgery scheduled in the coming days.
I keep a very positive state of mind because this prosthesis will finally allow me to live normally on a day-to-day basis, after being forced to use crutches for 12 months out of the last 17 and living in permanent pain.
The consequences of fitting a prosthesis are clear - I am obliged to limit impacts on the knee and therefore to stop the practice of competitive snowboarding.
Even if this situation has been forced on me, it is a carefully considered decision. It pushes me to look back on my journey while realizing the benefits of the life experience of my career as a high-level athlete. Victories, like defeats, leave me with no regrets. I am a man who has been fulfilled by what fate has given me and by what I have been able to accomplish.
I sincerely thank my wife Kadri, my family, my friends, my coaches and staff, the French Ski Federation, the Army, and my partners RedBull, the Serre Chevalier resort, Bridgestone, Bollé, SG snowboards, Nidecker and Racer. Everything I have achieved would have been impossible without all of these people and entities.
Now it's time for surgery and rehabilitation. These are my priorities. Then there will be the work to return to sliding on my snowboarding once again, because that is a physical and emotional need for me, and therefore essential.
I will then take stock of my retraining options and the projects that are important to me. It is already clear that my short-term projects will be carried out in the logical continuation of what I have already initiated with my partners, who have all decided to continue to support me. I would like to reiterate my thanks for their support.”
President of the French Ski Federation Michel Vion, along with National Technical Director Fabien Saguez, as well as all the sports and administrative staff of the Federation thanked Pierre Vaultier for his career as a high-level athlete and for the state of mind that he has displayed throughout these years. They will give him all their support in his future projects.
FIS Snowboard would like to thank Pierre for his 14 incredible years of World Cup, world championship, and Olympic competition, and for being an outstanding ambassador for the sport of snowboard cross. Pierre’s legacy will be a long one, and his name will no doubt remain etched atop the record books for many, many years to come.
While we’ll miss seeing you in the start gate (and on the podium), we wish you a successful recovery and all the best in the future, Pierre!
(With material from the French Ski Federation)