It was a momentous day in Lienz, Austria, while one champion emerged another took their final run. After 15 seasons of World Cup racing, five World Championships, four Olympic games and 186 World Cup starts, the legendary Sarah Schleper chose Lienz to make her final World Cup start.
Wearing a grey dress, a GoPro and blue Shred helmet decked with a floral bouquet the Sarah let out a final signature ROAR that was echoed by an ecstatic crowd from the top of the run to the bottom finish. She started out her ceremonial final run in true Schleper fashion, smashing the gates like a lioness. But then stopped midway to pick up her three-year-old son Lasse from Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser and continued with her lil cub cradled in her arms through the last gates. Sarah and Lasse were greeted by the rest of the World Cup family, including her husband Frederico, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, Patrick Riml and the rest of the gang bearing flowers and a ton of hugs! The scene was topped off with a masterfully crafted tribute video playing on the big screen.
Schleper was 16 years old, when she made her World Cup premiere in her hometown of Vail, Colorado (quite possibly the most supportive ski town a competitive racer could have) on November 11th, 1995. She went on to become a six-time U.S. Champion, a four-time Olympic Champion (in 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010), and has been a member of five World Championship Teams (in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011).
With the sixteen-year-old Vail-native Mikaela Shiffrin earning her first World Cup podium, it is the perfect day for a legendary skier like Sarah Schleper to pass the torch on to the next generation.
After her third place finish Mikaela reflected upon the way Sarah’s career has impacted her own, “Sarah [Schleper] told me to go after it and have fun. It was perfect. Something about that makes me very calm because she’s been there. I’m so bummed that she’s retiring, but she went out with a bang. I’m so proud of her and so proud to have raced next to her.”