April 26, 2016

That’s All Folks!


Sean Higgins - Associate Editor

1,365 World Cup races, 58 podiums, 19 wins, one World Championship medal, one Olympic medal, and one World Cup slalom crystal globe.

No, this isn’t the resume of the most prolific ski racer of all time, but the combined career stats of 2016’s most notable World Cup retirees.

So far this spring, 12 of the White Circus’ faces have chosen to bow out and move on to enjoy some of the finer things in life outside of ski racing like raising families, pursuing professional careers, and skiing slopes of the non-blue-dyed variety.

Notably absent from this list is 36-year-old Croatian star Ivica Kostelic. Although Kostelic struggled mightily with knee pain and poor results all season long, the 2011 overall World Cup champion announced via Facebook that he will continue to race at least through the 2017 Zagreb slalom.

“It is my great wish to perform at least once again in front of my home crowd at Snow Queen Trophy in Zagreb,” Kostelic wrote. “Therefore I decided to go on competing at least until January next year. Eventual further continuation of ski racing will depend on results and state of my knee.”

Let’s take a look back and recap some of their most memorable performances as we wish the 2016 retirees all the best in their future endeavors.

Herbst, arguably the most successful retiree this season, rose to prominence in the mid-2000s as part of a stacked Austrian slalom squad that included such legends as Benjamin Raich, Mario Matt, and Rainer Schoenfelder. Over the course of his 15-year World Cup career, Herbst amassed 126 starts, 16 podium appearances, nine victories, a silver medal in the 2006 Olympic slalom, as well as the 2010 World Cup slalom crystal globe.

Ski racing’s “Mad Max” leaves us with fond memories of one of the most emotional and aggressive skiers of the 21st century. A pure specialist who rarely ventured outside of his preferred discipline of giant slalom, Blardone ends his career with 153 starts, 25 podium appearances, and seven victories. Blardone also held a top-10 world rank in GS for 12 straight seasons from 2000-2012 – not bad for a man who started his national team career while Alberto Tomba was still racing.

A career marred by injury comes to a close as 34-year-old “Dada” Merighetti hangs up her ski boots for good. Although she planned to retire anyway, a knee injury sustained in this season’s World Cup downhill finals in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the final race of her career, sealed the deal. The Italian amassed an impressive 228 starts over a 16-year World Cup career, highlighted by six podiums and one downhill victory on home soil in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2012.

The quintessential American Downhiller chose to end his 15-year World Cup career with the most downhill starts of any American with 105. In total, “Sully” amassed 167 starts, four podium finishes, and one win in the 2008 downhill in Chamonix.

The French GS specialist decided to call it quits after 16 years, 81 races, four podiums, one win, and a 2011 World Championship silver medal. Richard famously tied Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal for the GS win at Adelboden in 2011, breaking Ted Ligety’s streak of three dominant GS wins in a row that winter.

Perhaps best known for his spectacular crash in the alpine combined at the 2015 World Championships in Beaver Creek, Colo., Bank actually called off his World Cup career at Kitzbuehel this past season after struggling through the recovery from a leg injury. The Czech skier started in 182 World Cups and finished on the podium twice – both times in alpine combined.

Additional retirees include –

Axel Baeck (Sweden): Slalom specialist Baeck bows out with 66 World Cup starts dating back to 2009. He finished in the top 10 nine times, including a runner-up finish in 2011 in Kranjska Gora.

Barbara Wirth (Germany): Another slalom specialist, Wirth started in 71 World Cups with her best finish a ninth in the 2014 Bormio slalom.

Silvano Varettoni (Italy): Speedster Varettoni also ends his career with 71 World Cup starts, his best finish a fourth in the 2015 Garmisch downhill.

Markus Vogel (Switzerland): Slalom skier Vogel says goodbye with 63 World Cup starts, highlighted by two top-10 results in 2011 and 2012 and a slalom world rank of 22 in the 2013 season.

Siegmar Klotz (Italy): Another Italian speed skier, Klotz finishes his career with 96 World Cup starts which included two 10th-place finishes in super G in Kitzbuehel and Kvitfjell in 2013.

Espen Lysdahl (Norway): University of Denver alumnus Lysdahl bows out after 22 World Cup starts, highlighted by a ninth place in the 2014 Are slalom. Lysdahl also has two NCAA slalom titles from 2012 and 2014 to his name, as well as an NCAA team national championship from 2014.

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Sean Higgins
Senior Editor
- A Lake Tahoe native and University of Vermont graduate, Higgins was a member of the Catamounts' 2012 NCAA title winning squad and earned first team All-American honors in 2013. Prior to coming to Ski Racing Media, he coached U14s for the Squaw Valley Ski Team.
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