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Laurenne Ross, Resi Stiegler, Alice McKennis Duran end ski careers defined by comebacks

Laurenne Ross

US Laurenne Ross reacts after the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup Super G in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, on January 26, 2019. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Laurenne Ross, Resi Stiegler and Alice McKennis Duran, who combined for seven Olympic appearances and more than 400 World Cup starts while coming back from injury after injury, decided to make this past season their last in top-level Alpine skiing.

Ross, a 32-year-old who overcame concussions, a shattered pelvis, double-digit shoulder dislocations, an ACL blowout, a hip tear, bulging discs, severe ankle sprains and more than 200 stitches in her face, announced her final race will be at the U.S. Championships that finish next week in Aspen, Colorado.

“From the community to the thrills, the injuries and pain, the sights, the flow, the love and the growth, I’m so grateful for every single part of my adventure through ski racing,” was posted on Ross’ social media. “It feels like I’m about to lose an enormous part of myself, but I am comforted by the gut feeling that “it’s time.”

Ross was the only American woman to race the downhill at both the 2014 Olympics and 2018 Olympics, her top finish 11th in Sochi. She also made two World Cup podiums -- three years apart -- and was fifth in the 2017 World Championships downhill.

She came back from an ACL tear at the March 2017 U.S. Championships to make the 2018 Olympic team. In downhill training at the 2019 World Championships, she crashed and suffered major left knee injuries that required surgery.

Ross sat out the 2019-20 season, then reinjured the left knee training giant slalom in November 2020. She returned in January for her final World Cup races, a 23rd her final finish on the circuit.

“I am fulfilled with what I’ve experienced, and am ready to let go of the ‘what ifs’ and untapped potential,” was posted on her social media. “It’s like I’m standing in the start gate of a course I’ve never raced on before. Except I haven’t inspected and there are so many unknowns that I’m about to face: dragons, math equations, good trouble, and fireworks.”

Stiegler, 35, was for a time the U.S.’ top female slalom skier, bridging the gap between six-time World Cup race winner Kristina Koznick and the emergence of Mikaela Shiffrin.

Stiegler recorded 16 World Cup top-10s from 2004 through 2007, then earned her one podium in 2012, coming back from a fractured tibia and femur that kept her out of the 2010 Olympics.

She tore her left ACL two weeks after that podium and worked her way back onto the national team and into two more Olympics. Her best Olympic finish was in her first Olympic race, 11th in the combined in 2006.

Stiegler, the daughter of three-time Olympic medalist Pepi Stiegler of Austria, once got out of a speeding ticket in Austria by claiming to be Lindsey Vonn. She often raced with tiger ears glued on her helmet from 2004-06.

“No words can explain any of it,” was posted on Stiegler’s social media after her World Cup farewell run, where she wore the tiger ears. “Let the memories and stories live on. I love it so much and I’m so thankful for it all.”

McKennis Duran, 31, said the word “abundant” came to mind when looking back on her career.

“An abundant amount of injuries, risk, effort and dedication, but most importantly I feel my career was abundant in so many positive and memorable ways,” was posted on her social media. “It’s time to step away from ski racing.”

McKennis Duran won a World Cup downhill in St. Anton, Austria, on Jan. 12, 2013, and had no top-10s in the following five years before finishing fifth in the 2018 Olympic downhill. In between, she missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics after shattering her right tibial plateau into about 30 pieces in a March 2013 crash. She received 11 screws, a metal plate and an 11-inch scar that she affectionately called “The Shark.”

She then missed the entire 2018-19 season after suffering a transverse fracture of her tibia and fibula while coaching at the American Downhiller camp in May 2018.

McKennis Duran’s final World Cup race was last Dec. 18, when she fractured her right ankle in a crash. She said she underwent surgery in nine of her 12 years on the World Cup, including five season-ending injuries. She will take her final lap before Saturday’s U.S. Alpine Championship downhill, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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