Clark to retire from Alpine racing |

Clark to retire from Alpine racing

Alessandro Trovati/AP FileThree-time Olympian Kirsten Clark, who lives in Squaw Valley, competes in the women's Super G at the World Alpine Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in this Feb. 3, 2003 file photo. Clark, the only skier to win four consecutive U.S. downhill titles, will retire after this month's Alpine championships.

U.S. Alpine ski racer Kirsten Clark, who went from junior national champion to three Olympics, a World Championship silver medal, a World Cup win and seven U.S. titles ” including the only American to win four straight U.S. gold medals in downhill ” announced her retirement Monday after 13 years on the U.S. Ski Team.

Clark, 29, who is originally from Raymond, Maine and now lives in Squaw Valley, said she’ll make a few ski runs this weekend. If she’s healthy, she hopes to compete in the U.S. Alpine Championships, which open next week at Alyeska Resort in Alaska.

After that, Clark plans to return to Squaw, where she lives with her husband, Andreas Rickenbach, a former World Cup racer himself.

Stacey Cook, a 2002 Truckee High graduate and downhill racer on the U.S. Ski Team, said things won’t be the same for her and her teammates without the veteran racer around.

“We’re all sad about it,” Cook said. “Everyone is going to miss her, for sure. There’s not one person on the team who is not going to miss her. She’s that valuable as a teammate. …

“She’s the best teammate you could ask for,” Cook continued. “She’s so professional yet so fun. She’s not afraid to help other people out. She’s always provided as much advice as you needed.”

Cook, being one of the younger members of the U.S. Ski Team, said Clark has been instrumental in terms of her development, as the elder skier has taken her under her wing and served as a mentor always willing to lend a helping hand.

“Out of everyone on the team, she definitely took me in the most, and I needed someone like that,” Cook said.

As far as future plans, Clark said she’ll return to Maine for a conditioning camp at Carrabassett Valley this summer and she’d consider coaching part-time. Once she settles down, she and her husband hope to find time to start a family, she said.

“Thirteen years is a long time, my body and my mind are telling. It’s been an incredible journey,” Clark, who is just weeks from her 30th birthday, said at a press conference at the headquarters of TD Banknorth, her sponsor of 11 years.

“It’s amazing to think it all started out when I was chasing my older brother [Sean, a former star racer at Bates College and juniors coach at the Jackson Hole Ski Club in Wyoming] down the slopes of Sugarloaf Mountain, and then from there attending Carrabassett Valley Academy.

Clark said she probably would have retired a year ago, after her third Olympics, but she came down with a staph infection in September 2005, which created some obvious problems, in addition to afflicting her in the vital lead-up to the start of the Olympic season. Her results during the season weren’t what she had hoped for and winning her seventh U.S. championship ” the downhill at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf ” spurred her to return for one more year.

“I’d like my last run on the Ski Team to be in a race at nationals, not crashing into the fence at World Cup Finals,” she said. “We’ll see what my body says this weekend.”

Bill Marolt, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association president and CEO, said, “We’ve been fortunate to have Kirsten providing her special brand of leadership and teamwork for more than a decade and we’ll definitely miss her. She represents all the best that the U.S. Ski Team strives for in our values. We’re so honored to have had her competing for us for so long certainly wish her all the best.”

” Sylas Wright contributed to this report

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