Poland’s most decorated Winter Olympian all but retires

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Justyna Kowalczyk, who holds the Poland Winter Olympic record with five medals, has all but retired from cross-country skiing, saying her only future competition would be domestic or as a relay member at world championships, according to Polish media.

Kowalczyk, 35, is one of the most decorated cross-country skiers of all time: two individual Olympic gold medals, eight world championships medals, four World Cup overall titles and a record four straight Tour de Ski titles.

She won 50 World Cup events, second only to longtime Norwegian rival Marit Bjoergen, the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time with 15 medals.

Kowalczyk made her Olympic debut in Torino in 2006 at age 23, taking bronze in 30km freestyle, two months after she was cleared of doping charges that would have banned her into 2007. It marked Poland’s first Olympic cross-country skiing medal. She remains the lone Pole to stand on an Olympic cross-country podium.

After winning her first World Cup overall in 2009, Kowalczyk made more history at the 2010 Vancouver Games. She became the first woman from Poland to win a Winter Olympic event, edging Bjoergen by three tenths of a second in the 30km classic. Before the Olympics, Kowalczyk criticized the Whistler course as “very, very easy, like for tourists.”

Kowalczyk remained atop the sport with World Cup overall titles in 2010, 2011 and 2013, then won the 10km individual in Sochi (on a broken foot) to surpass ski jumper Adam Malysz for the most Winter Olympic medals for a Polish athlete.

Her best finish in PyeongChang was seventh in the team sprint at her fourth and final Winter Games.

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