Every year, at the end of the racing season, there are always a few athletes who hang up their skis and walk away from professional racing. The end of the four-year Olympic cycle inevitably means a greater concentration of such announcements. Whether it’s a fourth or first appearance at the Games, or a near miss, the Olympics are always a goal and achieving them provides a good time to move on. While retirement announcements will likely continue into the spring, here’s a roundup and recognition of the international athletes who have shared the news that they will be ending their skiing careers.
Four athletes from the Swiss team have announced that they will leave, the main of them – the king of 15 km, Dario Cologne. At the age of 36, Cologne made their decision even before the start of the 2021/22 season, saying: “The decision came in the last few months and after the Olympics it will be the perfect time for me. I achieved everything I had always dreamed of in sport.
Cologne made his World Cup debut in 2006 and his first Olympic start came in 2010 in the 15km skating event, where he finished first. This victory makes him the first Swiss cross-country skier to win an Olympic gold medal. He went on to win three more gold medals, at the 2014 Sochi Games he won both the skiathlon and the 15km classic, and in 2018 in PyeongChang he added a gold medal in the 15km skate. In total, Colgona has had eighteen Olympic starts in four different games.
Between Olympic years, he was also successful. He won the Four times globe in the general classification of the World Cup, first in the 2007/08 season, again in 2010/11 and 2011/12 and a few years later in 2014/15. In the 2007/08 season he also took his first Tour de Ski victory, although he never took a stage victory that year. He won the grueling event three more times, in 2010/11, 2011/12 and again in 2017/18.
After his last outing in the legendary Holmenkollen 50km, Cologna wrote on Instagram: “I look back on a beautiful and successful career. 15 years ago, I never dared to dream that one day I would be a quadruple Olympic champion, world champion, multiple winner of the Tour de Ski and the World Cup. Plus, I had the privilege of traveling to places I would never have seen and meeting great people, who became good friends.
Cologne teammate, Jovian Hediger, also announced his retirement before the start of this season. Hediger was known as a sprint specialist and has 107 World Cup starts to his name, having made his debut in 2009. His first and only podium appearance came in 2021 in the team sprint event at Ulricehamn, Sweden, where he and Roman Furger finished second. . Hediger has represented Switzerland at three Olympics, starting with Sochi in 2014 and most recently ending in Beijing (2022).
Ueli Schnider of Switzerland is also moving away from elite competition. Schnider has 62 World Cup starts and made two Olympic appearances, both in 2018 in PyeongChang where he finished 37th in the classic sprint and 41st in the classic 50km mass start.
On the women’s side, Laurien Van der Graaff of Switzerland advances. Van Der Graaff has long been a fixture in women’s sprinting, starting with her first World Cup podium in 2011 in Dusseldorf, Germany. In doing so, Van Der Graaff became the second Swiss female athlete to step onto the podium and over the years she has continued to pave the way for young Swiss female athletes. His first win came in 2017 in a home skate sprint Tour de Ski stage race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Van Der Graaff has teamed up with Nadine Fähndrich on several occasions in team sprint events, earning him four World Cup podiums. At the World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany (2021), Van Der Graaff and Fähndrich teamed up again, winning a silver medal by finishing within hundredths of a second behind the Swedish team.
Van Der Graaff told FIS: “For a while I was convinced that I would not continue skiing until Beijing 2022, but I succeeded and I am very proud of what I have achieved. However, now my time has come and I am excited for all that awaits me in this new chapter.
While some athletes knew from the start of the season that it would be their last, others only made the decision recently. This was the case for the Swedish star, Charlotte Calla, which just announced its intentions last month. The 34-year-old said: “Curiosity about life outside of elite sports weighs more than continued investment would imply.”
Kalla burst onto the World Cup scene at the age of eighteen. She took her first victory the following season, taking a stage victory in Nove Mesto (2007) in the 10 km skating pursuit. In her first individual appearances at the World Championships, in Sapporo, Japan, in 2007, Kalla finished 7th and 5th. To give you an idea of her consistency from there, of the 34 World Championship events Kalla has completed between 2007 and 2021, she has finished in the top ten in 30 of those appearances, bar three. 11th places and an 18th.
Kalla has represented Sweden at four different Olympics, Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022. She came away from these events with five individual podium finishes, including two gold medals and three team medals including her. breathtaking relay performances in the relay in 2014 when she overcame a 25-second deficit to give the Swedes their first Olympic gold medal in the relay since 1960.
Since then, the Swedish women’s team have come to dominate the World Cup circuit and Kalla has taken on a mentoring role within the team. “It’s an inspiring team to be a part of and lots of girls who have the right mindset to do their best every day,” Kalla said in 2020. On March 22, 2022, Kalla announced on Instagram that the competitions Swedish nationals would last her as an elite athlete. She wrote, “Here I took my first [steps] at the age of seven and it’s nice to end my career here.
Elisa Brocard from Italy ended her skiing career at the age of 37. Brocard made his first World Cup start in 2006 and has competed in 162 World Cup events. She has represented Italy at three Olympics, from Vancouver in 2010 to PyeongChang in 2018. Her best season came in 2018 when she finished in the top 30 of the World Cup distance standings and 38th overall .
Nadine Hermann from Germany is also leaving the elite competition. She is the younger sister of Denise Herrmann who raced on the cross country World Cup circuit until her transition to biathlon in 2017, where she won gold in the individual event at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022. Nadine Herrmann finished in the top thirty in her first World Cup appearance in 2018 in the Dresden city sprints. She went on to earn a number of top thirty finishes, including a personal best 18th in Dresden in 2020. At the age of 26, Herrmann decided to move on, she wrote: “My sporting career active comes to an end. The last 14 years in performance sports have made me the person who today can say to the best of my conscience, I gave it my all.
Adrian Backsheider of France also announced his retirement. Backsheider started racing on the World Cup circuit in 2013. He earned six World Championship starts and helped propel the French team to a bronze medal in the men’s 4×10 relay at Falun in 2015 and again in Seefeld in 2019. Backsheider also has four Olympic starts. , as he represented France at Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022. He was a member of the bronze medal-winning relay team in PyeongChang when the French again clinched a place on the 4×10 relay podium. Backsheider’s personal best individual World Cup result came in Östersund, Sweden in 2020 when he finished 7th in the 15km skate stage race at the Tour of Scandinavia.
Cendrine Browne of Canada also says goodbye to professional ski racing, having concluded his career with a national title in the 45km skating event in Whistler, Canada. Browne made her World Cup debut in 2012 and went on to start 76 World Cup races. She was part of the Canadian Olympic team in 2018 and 2022 and has also posted thirteen World Championship starts. Browne finished 16th in the 30km mass start in Beijing, a personal best for her. In a statement to Nordiq Canada after the 45km race, Browne said, “Thank you to everyone in the ski community who has believed in me and encouraged me over the past ten years.”
The notable retirement of the extremely prosperous, Therese Johaug from Norway was not missed but will get its own feature from FasterSkier in the coming weeks. Additionally, members of the U.S. Ski Team Catherine Ogden, Hannah Halvorsenand Caitlin Patterson all shared news of their retirement, in addition to the top SuperTour athletes Ian Torchia and Adam Martin. (Read the story of the Torchia retreat here.)
Stay tuned for more in-depth reporting on these athletes from FasterSkier.