Last Monday, April 20, Norwegian national-team veteran Kristin Størmer Steira, 33, announced her decision to retire following several seasons of injuries and illness, the most recent of which came just prior to 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden, and kept her from racing the 30-kilometer classic mass start there.
“I’ve experienced so much as a cross-country skier and I love ski racing, but the time has come to find a new track. And that won’t be a ski track,” Steira said in a translated team press release.
“I feel privileged to have had the chance to work with the best ski racers and coaches in the world,” she added. “There have been rough times, sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears too, but those are valuable experiences that I will carry with me.”
And she will be missed, by both her teammates and coaching staff.
“I am sad to see her quit now,” Marit Bjørgen told TV2. “Kristin and I have been teammates since 2003, so it will be strange to continue without her, but I respect her decision. She has meant so much to me, both as a teammate on the course and as a friend outside the track, and she has been an important part of Norwegian cross-country skiing for over a decade.”
“She has been an important part of Norwegian cross-country skiing for over a decade.” — Marit Bjørgen, on Norwegian teammate Kristin Størmer Steira’s retirement
“Kristin is not only a solid skier. She is a fantastic person with a great personality and contributes to a positive atmosphere wherever she goes,” said national-team director Åge Skinstad.
During her career, Steira participated in three Olympics: 2006 in Turin; Italy, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada; and 2014 in Sochi, Russia. She earned an Olympic gold medal in the relay in 2010, and her first individual Olympic medal in 2014 with bronze in the 30 k freestyle mass start.
Steira competed in six World Championships: 2003 in Val di Fiemme, Italy; 2005 in Oberstdorf, Germany; 2007 in Sapporo, Japan; 2009 in Liberec, Czech Republic; 2011 in Oslo, Norway; and 2013 again in Val di Fiemme. During that time, she helped Norway win three World Championships golds in the relay in 2005, 2011 and 2013. Additionally, she earned four individual World Championships medals: two silvers in the 30 k classic mass start in 2007 and 15 k pursuit in 2009, as well two bronze medals in the 15 k skiathlon in 2005 and 15 k pursuit in 2007.
She also holds two individual Norwegian national titles in the 15 k pursuit in 2014 and the 30 k classic in 2010, along with two silver and three national bronze medals.
Steira first entered the World Cup circuit in 2002, when she raced the 30 k classic on home turf in Holmenkollen and came in 46th. She started 181 World Cups, tallied six individual World Cup victories and reached the World Cup podium 22 times.
In 2012, the national team sidelined her in the middle of the season due to weight concerns, with a BMI under the team’s minimum limit. She told NRK that she has fought weight problems throughout her career.
“It is something that has been challenging for me through my whole sports career. I’m naturally thin, and when I train my body reacts with that I lose weight,” she said, according to a translation. “I have worked hard, and it has been challenging since I have been on the border many times.”
She reiterated that she did not have an eating disorder and was happy to talk about the subject.
“People have wondered and I have tried to be as open about it as I could,” she said. “This is particularly true with teammates and the others we have worked with on the team … But it’s not something I feel … has been a major problem.”
For the rest of the spring, Steira will continue to study full time, stepping up her academic pursuits of earning a business degree. In July, she has a wedding date set with Canadian World Cup skier Devon Kershaw, and the couple hopes to start a family soon.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.