The decision took a little longer than initially anticipated, but Austrian World Cup star Benni Raich, whose career as a professional ski racer spanned two decades, announced his decision to retire from competition during a press conference in Vienna on Thursday.
“It was no easy decision. I have lived through a lot and have been very successful. But it is a good point in time now to make this decision and take another step forward,” said Raich at the press conference. “Above all, I had the feeling that the last motivation to explode in the races, to give everything and to have this last bit of tension was missing. This is the main reason why I chose to end my career and enter my ski retirement.”
Raich made his World Cup debut in 1996 at the tender age of 18, and he steadily rose through the ranks before earning the first of his 36 career victories in 1999 at the iconic Schladming night slalom. After his breakthrough 1999 season that saw him amass five podiums including three wins, he remained a regular threat on tour for over 15 years and competed through a total of 20 winters.
Raich’s most successful season came in 2006, when he captured 12 World Cup podiums, seven wins, Olympic slalom and giant slalom gold, as well as the overall, giant slalom, and combined crystal globes.
Known by many as one of the most prolific technical skiers of the 2000s, he managed to win no fewer than nine crystal globes with slalom titles in 2001, 2005, and 2007, giant slalom titles in 2005 and 2006, combined titles in 2005, 2006, and 2010, not to mention his 2006 overall title.
Raich has four Olympic medals to his name, winning bronze in slalom and combined at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, as well as his double golds from Torino 2006. Additionally, he amassed seven World Championship medals: gold in slalom and combined in 2005, silvers in 2001 (slalom), 2005 (GS), 2007 (super combined), and 2009 (GS), as well as a bronze in super G in 2005.
Raich’s incredible consistency also led him to second-place finishes in the overall standings in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, as well as an impressive stretch from 1999-2010 where he was never ranked worse than eighth in the world in giant slalom.
In recent years, Raich has struggled more since injuring his knee in the 2011 World Championships team event, seeing his rankings slip with his last victory coming in the 2012 Crans Montana super G. Since then, he has only managed to land on the podium twice, both times in giant slalom, with a third at Kranjska Gora in 2014 and second at Garmisch in 2015.
“I am looking forward to what will come now and I am sure that the future will bring something positive. I have to grow into my new role as a husband and father now but I will still be passionate about skiing. Maybe I’ll find one or the other task within the sport for me,” Raich concluded.