VIENNA — Two-time Olympic champion Benjamin Raich retired Thursday after 19 years on the Alpine skiing World Cup.
“I don’t have the motivation anymore to go the limit and you need that in ski racing,” the 37-year-old Austrian said in an emotional statement to reporters.
“I have been training hard and with pleasure all summer. I am top fit, I am healthy,” he said. “But when I think about racing, about (the World Cup opener in) Soelden, I am lacking that motivation … I take a step forward, and I am stepping down as a ski racer.”
Personal reasons also played a role in his decision. He married former slalom great Marlies Schild in April and they announced two months later they are expecting their first child.
Raich won 14 medals at major championships, including gold in GS and slalom at the 2006 Turin Games, and 36 World Cup races — more than any other active male skier.
He took the overall World Cup in 2006 and finished runner-up five times. He also won eight small crystal globes for the season’s best skier in a discipline.
In 441 World Cup starts, Raich had 227 top-10 finishes, four short of Norwegian standout Kjetil Andre Aamodt’s record of 231.
“I am very content and I am grateful for what I’ve achieved,” said Raich, adding he took the decision to retire two weeks ago.
Raich is the fifth prominent skier from Austria to retire in the
Austria ski federation president Peter Schroecksnadel called Raich “the biggest ski racer we’ve ever had in our federation.”
“Not just as a skier but also as a human being,” Schroecksnadel said. “We are proud of him, as a person and as an athlete.”
Raich was a multiple junior world champion when he made his World Cup debut at the age of 18 in 1996. His first win came three years later at the annual night slalom in Schladming, a race he would win three more times.
Specialized in the technical disciplines in his early years, Raich gradually developed into an all-round competitor.
He was beaten by Bode Miller for the overall title in 2005, but won the big crystal globe with a lower points total the following year ahead of the American and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal.
One of the most consistent performers of his generation, Raich ended runner-up the following four seasons. Twice he was edged by Svindal — in 2007 by 13 points and two years later by two points.
Miller again in 2008 and Carlo Janka of Switzerland in 2010 also denied the Austrian a second overall title.
Struggling with persistent back problems, Raich added just one more win in the past five years — a super-G in Crans Montana, Switzerland, in 2012. The injury also forced him out of the Olympic super-combined race of the 2014 Sochi Games.
Many expected him to retire last year, when Schild ended her career after setting a record for most slalom wins on the women’s World Cup.
Despite becoming Austria’s most successful skier since Hermann Maier, Raich kept a low profile off the slopes.
His relationship with Schild, which started in 2004, has been widely documented over the years but the pair usually preferred to stay away from the limelight, though they have been appearing together in advertising for an Austrian insurance company for many years.
Eric Willemsen, The Associated Press