AP

Elisabeth Goergl, world champion Alpine skier, retires with age record

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VIENNA (AP) — Austrian skier Elisabeth Goergl retired Monday, 2½ years after becoming the oldest woman to win a World Cup race.

A two-time world champion and two-time Olympic bronze medalist, the 36-year-old Goergl said she lacked motivation to prepare for the Olympic season.

“Many fans have asked me to continue for another year but I want to develop in another direction,” she said. “If I had still felt a spark, I would not have retired now.”

Goergl has started an education to become a ski coach, and she has just released a CD with her own songs.

Her career highlight came in 2011, when the Austrian upset favorites Lindsey Vonn and Maria Hoefl-Riesch twice to win the downhill and super-G gold medals at the worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

“That was my biggest and nicest achievement, for sure,” said Goergl, who had performed the song “You’re a Hero” live on stage during the opening ceremony of the worlds.

“To win the super-G the following day was very special. And winning the downhill was the icing on the cake. Double world champion sounded great.”

During 17 seasons, Goergl won five medals at major championships and competed in 378 World Cup races, winning seven of them. She was 33 years, 301 days when she last won a race, a super-G in Val d’Isere, France, in December 2014.

Goergl is also the oldest winner of a downhill. She was 32 years, 11 months when she triumphed in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee in January 2014. However, she will lose that record to Vonn if the American wins a downhill next season.

Her announcement Monday was no surprise. In January, after failing to make the Austrian team for the world championships in St. Moritz, she said she would consider retirement, even with an Olympic season coming up.

“I have taken a lot of time to think about it,” said Goergl, who won the overall title of the lower-tier Europa Cup in 2003. “Since I was 10, I have been chasing my goal to become a ski racer with huge passion. I never gave up and I always found new motivation.”

Goergl stems from a ski-mad family. Her mother, Traudi Hecher, won Olympic downhill bronze in 1960 and ’64. And her older brother, Stephan Goergl, competed on the men’s World Cup from 2001-12.

“The Goergl family has contributed massively to the ski sports in Austria,” said Hans Pum, sports director of the Austrian ski federation.

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MORE: Mancuso pushes past hip injury for final Olympic run

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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