“You know me. I either go all in, putting 150% effort or nothing. I can be very satisfied with my career, I was very lucky to never get serious injuries in all these years, and I slowly realized that I was not willing to pay the high price that it takes to always be at the top in this sport. Additionally, I wanted to leave as champion and I feel this is the best moment to retire.”
With those words, the dominant player in men’s alpine skiing for the last eight years, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, announced the end of his competitive career at a news conference in Salzburg, Austria.
The announcement was originally scheduled for 6 August, but was postponed so that Hirscher could be really sure that he was calling it a career.
He’s only 30, but has compiled a sterling record that is right there with the greatest athletes in the history of skiing:
● World Cup champion from 2012-19: eight straight seasons, out of 12 on tour from 2008-19;
● World Cup winner of 12 discipline titles: six each in Slalom and Giant Slalom;
● No. 2 on the all-time list for most World Cup victories with 67,with 32 in Slalom and 31 in Giant Slalom; only Ingemar Stenmark (SWE: 86 from 1973-89) has more;
● No. 2 all-time for most World Cup medals win with 138 (67-47-24); only Stenmark (155: 86-43-26) has more;
● Winner of seven World Championships gold medals and 11 total from 2013-19; he won three times in the Slalom, once in the Giant Slalom and once in the Combined, plus two in the Team Event;
● Three-time Olympic medalist, winning golds in the Combined and Giant Slalom in PyeongChang in 2018 and a silver in the Sochi Slalom in 2014.
Part of the reason for his retirement is no doubt his 2018 marriage to Laura Moisl and the birth of a son last October.
He leaves at the top of his game, having won the World Cup overall, Slalom and Giant Slalom titles last season, as well as a World Championships gold (Slalom) and silver (Giant Slalom).
His retirement could be good news for Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, 25, who finished second to Hirscher in the 2016 and 2018 World Cup standings and third in 2017 and 2019. France’s Alexis Pintuarault, 28, was second last season and third in 2014-15-16.
Hirscher’s departure will also increase the focus on American star Mikaela Shiffrin, who now stands alone among the all-time skiing greats still active. With the retirements of Lindsey Vonn and Hirscher, Shiffrin – still just 24 – has won three straight World Cup women’s titles and stands third all-time among women with 60 career wins … and climbing.
For Hirscher, he left on his own timetable and after winning another championship; few get to do that and he will be remembered as one of the best ever.
There was also great sadness with the confirmation that Blanca Fernandez Ochoa of Spain, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist in the Slalom, died during a hiking expedition in the mountains near Madrid. She was 56.
She had been missing since 23 August and her body was found by tracking dogs on Tuesday (3rd).
Fernandez Ochoa was a four-time Olympian for Spain in skiing, and won four World Cup events and 20 medals during her skiing career. She was the first Spanish women’s medal winner in skiing. Her brother, Francisco Fernandez Ochoa, was the gold medalist in Slalom at the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo (JPN).