PARK CITY, UT Sept. 30, 2003 (USST Release)--Two-time Olympian and former U.S. downhill champion Chad Fleischer (Vail, CO), who missed half of the 2002 season and all of last winter while recuperating from knee surgeries, has decided to retire after a decade of World Cup and Olympic racing, the U.S. Ski Team said Tuesday.
Fleischer, 31, who won the 1996 and '99 U.S. downhill titles, would have been in his 11th year on the Ski Team. He skied at a training camp in New Zealand last month and informed coaches he still has a passion for skiing but no longer has the commitment to racing.
"I was psyched about the way I was skiing in New Zealand and the camp went well," Fleischer said, "but after I got home and looked at the big picture and started going over my goal sheets, I realized, sitting back and looking at what I wanted to get out of this year and my career-I realized the commitment it would take. And I didn't have the commitment I've had in the past. I don't know where, but somewhere I'd lost the fire. I still have a passion for skiing and racing, but I don't have that fire any more.
"So, I'm retiring. I don't have any bitter taste in my mouth. The Ski Team and everyone who's supported me for so long have been terrific," he said, "but I know the size of the commitment it takes and I just don't have it anymore. I didn't want to just grind it out, hang on and wind up hating the sport."
Men's Head Coach Phil McNichol said, "Chad always represented such a will to make it back. He did have a good camp and he was comfortably on track, in our eyes, and a little ahead of where we hoped he'd be. We really had positive thoughts about his comeback...but Chad's clearly in charge of his destiny. I've got to praise him for his honest self-evaluation."
The coach added, "He's always been such a pleasure to work with, been such a good ambassador for the nation and for the Ski Team with a great work ethic, tremendous competitive drive. We'll miss him on the front line, but he's got such outstanding opportunities and we certainly wish Chad all the best."
"Chad represents all of the characteristics of a great downhill ski racer," said U.S. Ski Team President and CEO Bill Marolt. "He has shown the tenacity, the motivation and the ability to set and achieve goals. I know this was the toughest decision of his life, but he can retire knowing that he will be remembered as one of the U.S. Ski Team's greatest downhill ski racers!"
Fleischer, a 1994 and '98 Olympian, tore all ligaments and tendons in his right knee Jan. 10, 2002, in a training run in Wengen, Switzerland, and missed the Olympics in Utah. After multiple surgeries with Dr. Richard Steadman, Fleischer was back on snow briefly last fall but took the winter off to completely heal; he maintained conditioning drills and returned to skiing in early August, looking to resume his return to World Cup competition.
Born in Columbus, NE, Fleischer became a racer after the family moved to Vail in the mid-Eighties. He moved through Ski Club Vail and the Steamboat Springs, CO, Winter Sports Club before reaching the U.S. Ski Team. He and his wife Renee recently moved from Vail back to Steamboat Springs; a commentator for the Outdoor Life Network last season while rehabbing, Fleischer said he plans to travel on the World Cup tour this winter-but as an analyst for OLN, not a racer.
Serving as host and narrator, he also has completed 13 episodes of an OLN series, "This Happened to Me," which reports a variety of harrowing adventures (e.g., surviving a bear attack). He has one major project in development for teenage summer and winter athletes, and also will continue various projects with Rossignol, his ski company, and his other sponsors. He and his wife Renee recently bought 22 acres and a new home outside Steamboat Springs.
For more information about Chad Fleischer and the U.S. Ski Team, check out their website at www.usskiteam.com