Maria Hoefl-Riesch

Maria Hoefl-Riesch retires from Alpine skiing

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German Maria Hoefl-Riesch retired Thursday, ending one of the greatest recent careers in Alpine skiing.

“My decision is to end my career now,” she said, according to The Associated Press.

Hoefl-Riesch, 29, won four Olympic medals and six World Championships medals. She finished in the top three of the World Cup overall standings each of the last seven seasons, including winning the title over friendly rival Lindsey Vonn in 2010-11.

Hoefl-Riesch said at the Sochi Olympics she would not ski at the Olympics in 2018. She crashed at the World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on March 12, ending her season prematurely.

Hoefl-Riesch, who was leading the World Cup overall standings when she crashed, finished second to Austria’s Anna Fenninger overall and won the downhill crystal globe.

Hoefl-Riesch’s versatility is apparent from her Olympic medals. She won gold in 2010 in the super combined and the slalom, gold in 2014 in the super combined and silver in Sochi in the super-G.

“One should quit when it’s the best and that [Sochi] was the best that could have happened to me,” Hoefl-Riesch said, according to the AP. “”The first gut feeling after the Olympics and the gold medal was to retire on that success.

“It was a dream-like career, I was at the top in all disciplines over the years.”

Hoefl-Riesch, Vonn and Tina Maze have been the class of women’s Alpine skiing over the last two Olympic cycles, following the retirement of Janica Kostelic and Anja Paerson finishing her career.

Vonn, 29 like Hoefl-Riesch, plans to return to skiing next season following knee surgeries. Maze, 30, has said she will not ski at the next Olympics but hasn’t said when she will retire.

The ultimate Olympic NCAA Tournament bracket

Kobe Bryant embraced the Olympics, on and off the court

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Kobe Bryant developed a special relationship with Team USA, international basketball and the Olympic Games themselves.

Bryant was among those who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Grief spread worldwide, showing the impact he had across international sport. Images of Bryant meeting Olympians from gymnastics, swimming, track and field, even Alpine skiing, some from him attending their competitions, dotted social media.

Bryant earned gold medals as a leader of the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic basketball teams. He said before debuting at the Games that he valued a gold medal above an NBA championship.

In 2008, he helped spur the Redeem Team to gold in Beijing. He sat down with NBC Sports’ Cris Collinsworth for an interview, describing what it meant to him to receive the USA jersey for the first time.

“I had goosebumps, and I actually just looked at it for a while,” said Bryant, who put off surgery on a torn ligament in his right pinkie finger to play in 2008. “I just held it there, and I laid it across my bed. I just stared at it for a few minutes. Just because, as a kid growing up, this is the ultimate, ultimate in basketball.”

Bryant’s first Olympic game came in a special environment — in Beijing against China.

“When I look up in the crowd, and I see all the USA flags waving and people chanting USA, it gives you goosebumps,” he said. “When I heard the national anthem, I teared up a little bit, and I had to gather myself.”

Bryant stayed close to the Olympic Movement in retirement.

He attended the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials for women’s gymnastics, meeting the team members. He appeared at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Awards, helping raise money for the national governing body. He was the final voice in the Los Angeles Olympic bid presentation to the IOC two years ago.

Bryant’s last words in that video, before the IOC later awarded the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 Olympics to Los Angeles: “To have the Olympics here, and to have so many different cultures represented, would be a beautiful story to tell.”

WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.