Norwegian web news sources are reporting that the Norwegian national ski program has lost another of its stars to retirement. This morning Bente Skari won her 16th Norwegian National Championship by out-sprinting Hilde Gjermundshaug Pedersen in the pursuit event. After the finish she had few words for reporters. Instead, she insisted that she would be issuing a statement at a press conference scheduled for that afternoon.
At the press conference she confirmed what came as a shock to many: that she would be retiring from international competition following the conclusion of this season. Bente cited a lack of motivation for her decision; next season lacks any international championships and the next World Championships is not until 2005. Skari was also quick to point out that she is not pregnant.
Skari’s earlier public statements concerning the end of her career have been varied. Following the World Championships in Lahti, Finland in 2001, Bente indicated that she was looking to retire following either the Salt Lake City Olympics or the Val di Fiemme Worlds. More recently, she hinted that she would retire at least before 2010, opening the door to the possibility that the Torino Olympics in 2006 would be her last. Now it appears that the Norwegian team will have to look to other skiers to fill her place on the relay team.
Of the 19 international individual ski races that she started this year, Bente won 16. Two were World Championships events, and her 14 individual World Cup victories in one season is a record that surpasses both Bjrn DÃ¦hlie and Jelena VÃ¤lbe. Assuming that she has won her last World Cup race, Skari’s World Cup total stands at 44.
(sources: VG, Dagbladet, and Langrenn.com)