End of era as all-time great Marcel Hirscher retires

End of era as all-time great Marcel Hirscher retires
Marcel Hirscher.
Autor snímku Red Bull Content Pool
SDÍLEJ:

After weeks of speculation the Austrian skiing star has announced his retirement. After weeks of speculation, Marcel Hirscher announced his retirement from alpine skiing on Wednesday – appearing grateful and visibly at peace with his decision as he spoke to an audience of more than 120 international media in Salzburg in his native Austria, and a prime time audience watching on TV.

End of era as all-time great Marcel Hirscher retires
Marcel Hirscher performs at the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup in Val d'Isère, France on December 12, 2010.
Autor snímku GEPA pictures - Red Bull Content Pool

"It is not a major surprise anymore, but this is the day where I am ending my career as a ski racer," Hirscher said during the live broadcast at Salzburg Gusswerk. “I didn’t want to miss the right time to go out – as a winner.”

Hirscher’s decision marks the end of an era that will forever bear his name – and the finish line for one of the most impressive careers in any sport, one that took 4,554 days from beginning to end.

During that time, Hirscher competed 245 times in the World Cup and 24 times in the Olympic Games and World Championships – racing for a total of 7 hours, 17 minutes, 50 seconds, 40 hundredths of a second.

Marcel Hirscher.

Competing in his own inimitable style, he re-wrote ski history and became an all-time hero, winning the overall World Cup eight times in succession, and picking up another 12 smaller crystal balls as the winner in slalom and giant slalom, six times apiece. All in all, he achieved 67 World Cup victories, among 138 podium finishes, and won two Olympic gold medals and one silver. With seven world titles and four silver medals, Marcel Hirscher is the world champion among world champions.

Speaking in a live interview with Marco Büchel, Hirscher said he had weighed everything up, before coming to the right decision at the right time.

“Now is the best time to stop. It feels right and good.”

Hirscher could certainly have continued racing, and probably continued to win, but he said his years at the top of the world had taken a lot out of him.

 

"Maintaining the same high level requires more effort every year,” he explained. “Everything was worth it up to now. I would do it exactly the same way. But at some point you realize that the inner battery is not full anymore. To go the World Championships in Åre, despite being sick, and to win gold again was certainly the right decision. But such things leave marks, and I don’t know if I can pay the price any more.”

Asked what had been the most beautiful moment in his incomparable career, Hirscher replied: "That was my world title in 2013 at the home World Cup in Schladming. Actually I could have stopped then, because I knew after this victory there couldn’t be a nicer feeling. The fact that there have been so many incredible moments and successes makes me unbelievably grateful. My goals have been achieved, my mission has been fulfilled."

In fact, Hirscher has won everything there is to win in ski sports and set a series of records – not only with his eight overall World Cup victories in a row, but also as the most successful World Championships participant of all time with seven gold and four silver medals. He is also the only ski racer to win gold in four consecutive World Championships: Schladming 2013, Vail/Beaver Creek 2015, St. Moritz 2017 and Åre 2019.

Those achievements earned him the highest reputation far beyond skiing. In 2017, the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOK) voted him "Europe's Sportsman of the Year", and he has received this honour five times in his native Austria. L'Équipe named him "World Sportsman of the Year" and Eurosport the "Sportsman of the Year 2018".

Marcel Hirscher.

Hirscher not only shaped skiing, he also changed it. Looking back, he said: "When I was injured while on top form in 2011 I had to skip the World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I came to understand: a small improvement in material is a small gain in the race, and one I didn’t have to ski better to gain.

“That was part of my understanding of professionalism, that we have lived in the team over the years. And I have subordinated everything else over all these years – even my own needs, if they did not fit into the big plan.”

The ski superstar was as modest in his last major public appearance as he has been throughout his long career.

"It was never my way alone," Hirscher said, as he gave an insight into his blueprint for success.

He especially thanked his father Ferdinand, who taught him all the essentials for his career, accompanied him, and was always the mastermind behind his success, his mother Sylvia and brother Leon, who always had his back, and particularly his wife Laura.

"When we got to know each other, I was a nobody,” he said. “She supported me in everything over the years, on both good and bad days."

He also thanked his team for acting with the same levels of professionalism and enthusiasm as his own, and for doing such a great job.

“A few years ago, I think it was after the fifth overall World Cup, I tried to write down on a piece of paper the names of all the people who have a share in my success,” he said. “Even then that was already hopeless. I’ve made the font even smaller, but I always come up with more names, so over time this piece of paper would have to become a huge poster.”

Hirscher also thanked his fans and the entire skiing community. “Thanks to everyone who watched me ski through their living rooms,” he said.

The athlete he had learned most from was the Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal. "As a man and as a competitor, I have the utmost respect for Aksel," he said.

On questions related to his future, he replied, "Now? I enjoy a little peace at home. I want to see my son, the little man, grow up, and I want to do all the things I have not done so far or not enough. After this event, I go back to my normal life."

Marcel Hirscher.

He does not have a post-career master plan, especially since his decision was taken so recently. "There are many ideas and many possibilities, but I’ll take my time,” he said. “I’m really keen to find a way to pass on my experiences and thus give something back, to ease the path for young athletes. And as for me, you know me: everything to do with going fast is good for me.

“I’m looking forward to a winter as a normal ski fan and watching some exciting races. Next season, I expect a great duel between Henrik Kristoffersen and Alexis Pinturault – and I'll be watching closely.”

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