The World Cup season has come to an end, and with it, so have a number of prominent careers. Retirements always spike at the end of an Olympic year, and 2010 is no exception. The list includes Virpi Kuitunen (FIN), Sabina Valbusa (ITA), Laurence Rochat (SUI), Reto Burgermeister (SUI), Rene Sommerfeldt (GER), Sarah Renner (CAN), Milan Sperl (CZE) and Anna Olsson (SWE).
Kuitunen is the biggest name among the group. She won consecutive overall World Cup titles in 2007 and 2008, and finished in the top-6 for six straight seasons. She started 147 individual World Cup races, winning 20. She has two Olympic bronze medals, both in team events – the 4×5 in 2010 and the Team Sprint in 2006.
Her World Championship record is even more impressive – 6 gold medals (2 relay, 2 team sprint, and 2 individual) – as well as a silver and a bronze.
Sommerfeldt had a long and successful World Cup career, racing for 14 years at the highest level. He won the overall World Cup in 2004 and finished 2nd twice, in 2003 and 2008. He started 190 individual World Cup races and has three championship medals to his name – an Olympic bronze from the 4x10km in 2002 and two World Championship silvers – relay in 2003 and 50km in 2001.
He has expressed an interest in coaching at some point in the future.
The 34-year-old Olsson (formerly Dahlberg), ends her career on a strong note, winning the city sprint in Stockholm, and finishing 8th in the World Cup Final overall. Olsson, married to fellow Swedish skier Johan Olsson, won Olympic gold in 2006 in the team sprint. A good all around skier, she made her mark in the sprints. Olsson twice finished 3rd in the Sprint Cup.
Olsson told FIS that she plans on enjoying family life with her husband.
Valbusa, at age 36, also called it quits, after 219 individual World CUp starts. She made her debut in December of 1992 in the 5km classic in Ramsau, Austria, finishing 44th. A month later she cracked the top-30 for the first time, taking 24th in Cogne, Italy.
She won bronze at the 2006 Olympics and the 2005 World Championships in the 4x5km relay. Overall she finished on the World Cup podium nine times and won once.
Rochat never made it onto the World Cup podium, but she was part of a surprising Swiss relay team at the 2002 Olympics that took the bronze. She cracked the top-10 on the World Cup just once – in 2005 in Canmore, but she was a mainstay on the Swiss relay team, and started 121 World Cup races.
“I’ve thought about this decision and am now ready to retire after 15 years of being on the Swiss ski team and in the World Cup squad.”
She has worked part time for watch manufacturer Audemars Piguet, one of her sponsors. Starting in May, she will work full time for the company.
Burgermeister has also been a fixture on the Swiss National Team, racing in three Olympics (1998, 2002, 2006). In his 99 World Cup starts, he stood on the podium twice.
According to FIS, his farewell race was at the Swiss National Championships in Sörenberg ,where he took part in 50 km. After the finish Burgermeister was greeted by teammates with a bottle of champagne.
Sperl at just 30 years old is the youngest of the retirees. He started the 15km at the 2010 Olympics, his 3rd Games. He also won a World Championship bronze in Sapporo in 2007. The FIS site lists his personal comment as “Be lavish with happiness for others.”
“It is time to move on and do something else” commented Sperl at the Czech National Championships, where he raced for the last time as a professional. “I will now work for three years as a law assistant. I am looking forward to that. It will be completely different from what I have been doing until now. My performance has not been as I wished, but of course I do not leave cross-country skiing for good, I only quit from professional skiing.”
Sperl was carried across the finish line by his Czech teammates at the conclusion of his final race.
Renner goes out as one of the top Canadian skiers of all time, trailing only Beckie Scott. She won silver with Scott in the team sprint at the 2006 Olympics, and took World Championship bronze in the classic sprint in 2005.
She started 124 World Cup individual races and finished on the podium four times. In 2006 she was 10th in the overall World Cup, and completed her career with a strong showing in front of a home crowd at the Vancouver Olympics, completing a two-year comeback after having a child.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.