The Year of Retirements
The 2015 season will be long remembered for the excitement in the overall title chase between Anna Fenninger and Tina Maze, the return of Lindsey Vonn, and the continued dominance of Marcel Hirscher. But it is also turning into the year of retirements. So far there has been unusually large number of athletes calling it quits, with others still on the fence on whether they will return for one more year. Here is a look back at the success of those who are calling it a career.
Mario Matt, Austria
The slalom specialist ended his distinguished career following an injury during the World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek. The injury to his ankle was worse than he originally thought and was unable to compete in the remaining World Cups.
Matt was the 2014 Olympic slalom champion and the 2001 and 2007 world champion in slalom. The Austrian recorded 15 World Cup victories, 14 in slalom and one in super combined. He finished on 42 podiums in 193 World Cup starts, with only two of those podiums coming in events other than slalom, a second in giant slalom in 2007 in Beaver Creek and the victory in super combined.
“I noticed during the course of this season that ski races are no longer the most important thing in my life,” Matt said. “Looking back fills me with great satisfaction. I believe not many have been as lucky as I have, becoming twice World Champion and winning an Olympic gold.”
Matt plans to spend his retirement with his horses and working at his apres-ski bar, called Krazy Kangaroo in St. Anton.
Regina Stertz, Austria
Austrian Sterz announced her retirement at the World Cup finals super G in Meribel. She was seen giving interviews wearing a fuzzy pink tiara in a white suit that her fellow competitors signed with words of encouragement for her future.
Sterz competed in 118 World Cups, was on two Olympic teams, in 2010 and 2014 and two World Championships teams in 2011 and 2013. She finished a career high fifth, five times, the most recent coming at World Cup finals in Lenzerheide in 2014. Her most successful season came just a year ago when she finished 11th in the super G standings and 16th in downhill.
Julien Cousineau, Canada
Cousineau started his World Cup career in Soelden in 2002 and competed in 109 World Cup races, four World Championships and the Olympic slalom in Whistler, Canada. His best result in a major event result came during the World Championships slalom in Garmisch Partenkirchen in 2011, where he found himself just off the podium in fifth. He finished his World Cup career with seven top-10 results including a pair of fifth places in slalom in Schladming and Val d’Isere in 2010. That season he finished a personal best 14th in the slalom standings.
“It has been roller coaster ride lots of injury and lots of good times. I am proud of what I accomplished, I never gave up and always faced what was in front of me,” Cousineau said via a facebook post.
Davide Simoncelli, Italy
Italy’s Simoncelli made the announcement of his retirement at the Italian National Championships in Tarvisio at the end of March. He won his first ever World Cup race in 2003 in Alta Badia and his only other win came in 2006 in YongPyong, Korea. Both were in GS.
Simoncelli finished his career with eight podiums, all in GS. In 2006 and 2010 he finished a career best fourth in the GS standings. The 36-year-old finished this season 15th in the GS standings.
“I will always remember my first victory on the Gran Risa, a home race for us Italians and one of the most difficult ones on the Tour. Also, the Beaver Creek podium I earned in 2012 only months after the serious accident I suffered in training,” Simoncelli said remembering his favorite moments.
Simoncelli competed in three Olympics and seven World Championships over the course of his career. His final run came in Tarvisio, Italy, at the Italian National Championships GS, where he finished second. He plans to stay involved in skiing and has completed his ski instructor’s license and is starting the process of obtaining a coaching one as well.
Marion Rolland, France
The 2013 world downhill champion announced her retirement after suffering an ACL injury following a crash in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, in January. She was forced to miss the 2015 World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek, leaving her unable to defend her title. She struggled with injuries throughout the course of her career and decided that after 15 years on tour, it was time to move forward.
“It’s time for me to think about the future,” said Rolland in a press release. “I couldn’t have stopped last year without trying to defend my (world championship) title, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. Now I’m serene.”
Rolland stared 107 World Cups and finished on the podium on two occasions. Ironically both of her podiums, as well as her world championship gold medal, all came on the same track in Schladming, Austria. She made on Olympic start for France in Whistler in 2010 and was a member of three World Championship teams during her career.
Marie Marchand-Arvier, France
Marchand-Arvier spent 12 years on the World Cup tour. She started 177 World Cups and finished with five podiums. The highlight of her career came in her home country during the 2009 World Championships in Val d’Isere when she finished with the silver medal in the super G behind Lindsey Vonn.
“I’m very happy to live it because it’s just magic,” said Marchand-Arvier of her career. “I’m very happy to quit skiing because I had a few years with a lot of difficulties … I’m just happy now.”
Marchand-Arvier competed in three Olympics and five World Championships. The last podium of her career came in 2013 when she finished third in the Meribel downhill, the site of her final World Cup race.
Marion Bertrand, France
Marion Bertrand chose the French National Championships in Serre Chevalier as her final competition. The 30-year-old skied her final slalom race dressed as Pocahontas and was celebrated at the finish line by all her teammates.
Bertrand competed in 120 World Cup races and earned a career high finish of 8th place in the 2008 Aspen GS. She was a member of three French World Championship teams, competed in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and finished a 21st in the 2009 GS standings in her best season.
Carolina Ruiz Castillo, Spain
The 33-year-old Spanish skier announced her retirement leading up to her final World Cup races in Meribel, France. She officially ended her career at the Spanish national championships in Baqueira-Beret, Spain, at the of March. She won the GS and super G to finish as a 15-time Spanish national champion.
Ruiz Castillo made her World Cup debut in 1998 and went on to compete in 265 World Cups, finishing on the podium twice, once in GS in 2000 and then had to wait another 13 years for her second podium — a victory in a downhill in Meribel in 2013.
“Knowing that my last World Cup race will be on the same track as two years ago when I earned my victory is very emotional,” Ruiz Castillo commented.
Ruiz Castillo will finish her career as one of the most successful Spanish ski racers of all time. She competed in nine World Championships and four Olympic games for Spain over the course of her 18-year career.
Didier Defago, Switzerland
The 2010 Olympic downhill champion retired on a high note this season, finishing second in the final World Cup downhill of the year in Meribel, France.
“When I came here this weekend it was my goal to ski and make it to the podium so it’s a great feeling,” said Defago of his final downhill race. “I’m very happy and now I just enjoy this day and all the emotions that go with it. I have a lot of friends and family here so it’s a very nice finish for me.”
He made his World Cup debut in 1996 and enjoyed a long career that included an impressive 402 World Cup starts, 16 podiums and five victories. He won on the famed Kitzbuehel and Wengen courses, earning the double in 2009, when he won the Wengen downhill and then the next weekend followed that up with the victory on the Hahnenkamm.
But what many of his competitors will remember is the type of person and athlete he was on tour. At World Cup finals Kjetil Jansrud joked that he ruined the retirement party for Defago after he stole the victory away, pushing Defago down to second. He then couldn’t stop talking about what an incredible person Defago was to compete with.
“For me he will always be a legend, not just speaking of his merits: Olympic gold, he won Wengen, he won Kitzbuhel, he won all the big stuff, but half of being a legend is how you treat other people and other competitors and how you behave, and Didier is one of the best guys around,” said Jansrud in Meribel.
Dominique Gisin, Switzerland
Gisin, who just a year ago finished in a historic tie with Tina Maze to take the Olympic downhill gold, announced her retirement from the sport during World Cup finals in Meribel. It was the first time there was ever a tie atop the leaderboard in an Olympic alpine event.
Gisin, whose career was plagued with injuries, crashed in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, in January and suffered a broken tibial plateau. Remarkably, she only missed a few weeks following the injury. Gisin returned in time for World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek and then was able to finish out the World Cup season. In her final race at the Swiss National Championships in St. Moritz she ended at the GS national champion on March 29th.
The 29-year-old competed in 154 World Cups with seven podiums and three victories. She was a member of two Olympic teams, in 2010 and 2014, as well as five World Championship teams. She plans to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot upon her retirement.
Nadja Jnglin-Kamer, Switzerland
Swiss speed specialist Jnglin-Kamer announced in St.Moritz during the Swiss National Championships, that due to several injuries she suffered throughout her career, her body left her with no choice but to retire.
Jnglin-Kamer earned five podium finishes in her 10 years on the World Cup tour. Kamer started in 88 World Cups, was a member of two Olympic teams in 2010 and 2014 and represented Switzerland in the 2011 and 2013 World Championships. She just missed out on a podium in the 2013 World Championship downhill in Schladming, when she finished fourth, 0.04 seconds from third.
“Logically, I would have loved to celebrate a World Cup victory and earned a medal at a big event,” Jnglin-Kamer said in a release by Swiss Ski. “But I am satisfied with the results. When I was young, I could have never dreamed of having such a career.”
Silvan Zurbriggen, Switzerland
Zurbriggen becomes the fourth Swiss skier to announce a retirement this season after his did so through a press release by the Swiss Federation. The announcement comes only two weeks after his teammate Didier Defago celebrated the end of his successful career at the Finals in Meribel, France. Zurbriggen has said he will begin a new career through an internship with one of his longtime sponsors, Raiffeisenbank.
“I am pleased that I will continue to work in a new career field with Raiffeisen. The same passion with which I have practiced and lived ski racing, I will also make my new life,” Zurbriggen said.
Throughout the course of his career Zurbriggen competed in 254 World Cup races, landing on the podium 13 times with two victories – one in the Kitzbuehel Combined in 2009 and the other in a downhill at Val Gardena, Italy, in 2010. Zurbriggen represented Switzerland in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, earning a bronze medal in the super combined in Vancouver in 2010. He also competed on seven World Championship teams and won a surprise silver medal in the slalom at the 2003 World Championships in St. Moritz.
“In the eleven years of my professional career I celebrated some great successes, which I am very proud of,” Zurbriggen said.
Hailey Duke, United States
The independent slalom skier announced her retirement following her final race in Sun Valley, Idaho on April 4th. Duke spent five years as a member of the U.S. Ski Team before becoming independent in 2013. She finish her career with 45 World Cup starts and recorded a career high 8th in Semmering, Austria, in a slalom in 2008. She finish the 2008/09 season 27th in the slalom standings.
Throughout her career Duke competed in two World Championships, one Olympic games, had three Europa Cup victories and three NorAm wins. She had to miss most of the 2013 season to have a benign tumor removed from her pituitary gland, before recovery and returning to competition in 2014.
She plans to attend school at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, upon retirement.
“I’m just happy it all came together,” Duke said to the Sun Journal. “I got to go take my last World Cup race, finish it all on my own terms and I couldn’t ask for more than that. A lot of athletes don’t get to do that so I’m pretty proud of myself.”
FIS helped contribute to this piece.