Marcel Hirscher

Alpine skiers beaten out for Austria Sportsman of the Year award

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Alpine skiing may be a national sport in Austria, but the country’s best sportsman for the second straight year was a soccer player.

Bayern Munich defender David Alaba beat three-time reigning Alpine skiing World Cup overall champion Marcel Hirscher for Austria’s Sportsman of the Year award for a second straight year. Women’s Alpine skiing World Cup overall champion Anna Fenninger won the Sportswoman of the Year award for a second straight year, too.

Alaba earned 1,193 points in journalist voting, beating Hirscher by a single point.

Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League in 2013, known as the treble in European soccer. It won the Bundesliga this year and bowed out in the Champions League semifinals. The Austrian national team did not qualify for the World Cup.

Hirscher was favored to win the Sochi Olympic slalom title but finished second to countryman Mario Matt. He clinched the World Cup overall title after the Olympics in March. Matt was third in the Sportsman of the Year voting, followed by Sochi Olympic downhill champion Matthias Mayer.

Alaba became the first man since another Alpine skier, Hermann Maier, to repeat as Austria’s Sportsman of the Year. The four-time Olympic medalist Maier won four straight from 1998 through 2001.

Fenninger, the Sochi Olympic super-G champion, had nearly twice as many voting points for the Sportswoman award over the runner-up, Sochi Olympic parallel slalom snowboarding champion Julia Dujmovits.

The last five Austrian Sportswoman of the Year awards have gone to Alpine skiers (Andrea Fishbacher, Elisabeth GoerglMarlies Schild and Fenninger twice).

World champion sailors Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar won the Team of the Year award.

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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