Posted 30. April 2009 by Editor
Shortly before training for the new season starts, we have put together a summary of top athletes who have announced their retirement, along with some high-profile comebacks. Relatively few athletes have chosen to shift gears ahead of the 2010 Olympic season which will be followed by another FIS World Championships winter in 2011.
In Cross-Country we will miss two great male skiers: Tor Arne Hetland (NOR) and Gion-Andrea Bundi (SUI). The 35-year-old veteran Hetland retired because of a lingering knee injury and asthma."I feel like I am quitting while I am at the top," he said. Hetland made significant sprint history, being the first sprint world champion in 2001, the first Olympic champion in sprint in 2002 as well as the first world champion in team sprint in 2005. 32-year-old Bundi represented Switzerland in five FIS Nordic World Ski Championships since 1999 and will best be remembered for his victory in the Engadin Ski Marathon in 2005.
The main retirement news in Ski Jumping comes from Finland where Tami Kiuru announced that he will step down. For many years, Kiuru was one of the main contributors to numerous team medals at title events and also won an individual bronze medal in the Ski Flying World Championships in 2004.The biggest comeback news also comes from Finland as one of the greatest jumpers in history, Janne Ahonen, announced his comeback for the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
In Alpine Skiing, a few well-known names have announced their retirement: Among those, Thomas Grandi of Canada retired definitely after a renewed effort to return to racing this season with the goal of winning an Olympic medal on home ground. For Grandi, the family will enjoy top priority in the future. In Austria, three members of the ladies’ team have announced the end of their careers: after Christine Sponring (combined silver at 2001 worlds), Silvia Berger and Ingrid Rumpfhuber (both Austrian A team) have also decided to focus on life after skiing. In France, Joel Chenal, the 2006 Olympic giant slalom silver medalist, and Frédéric Covili, the GS specialist who won world championship bronze in St Anton in 2001, have nailed up their skis, while in the United States, Eric Schlopy (2003 giant slalom bronze medalist in St Moritz) and Kevin Francis announced retirement. The best British male skier for many years, Scot Alain Baxter, who recorded four top ten World Cup finishes and will be best remembered for winning and then losing an Olympic medal, is another skier deciding to call it quits and is joined by Monika Bergmann of Germany, a three time junior world championship medalist who scored six World Cup podiums in her career.
In terms of comebacks, Kalle Palander of Finland, the 1999 slalom world champion, who sat out the entire season has confirmed his intentions to return for the Olympic Games. Encouraging news were also received from Bern (SUI) where Daniel Albrecht met the press for the first time on Wednesday since his severe crash in Kitzbühel in January and was able to leave the hospital to return home after three months of intensive hospital care.