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Lucas Braathen ends ski retirement, eyes switch from Norway to Brazil

Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier a year ago, plans to return to competition next season — and switch nationality from Norway to Brazil — after announcing his retirement from the sport before the start of this season in October.

Braathen, a 23-year-old with a Brazilian mom, is still listed as Norwegian by the International Ski Federation but said the Norwegian federation is allowing the transfer.

He is in the process of applying for a nationality switch that could be granted before the next World Cup season starts in October.

“My love for sports was found in the streets of São Paulo, playing football with my friends and cousins,” Braathen said, according to sponsor Red Bull. “It feels meant to be.”

Braathen was the World Cup slalom season champion in 2022-23.

Then, two days before the first scheduled race of this season, Braathen announced his retirement in a tearful press conference.

“I’m done,” he said then. “I am a person that have always followed my own dreams and what makes me the happiest. ... For the first time in at least half a year, I’m happy after making this decision. For the first time in years I feel free, and everyone that knows me, they know that if it’s something that leads me to happiness, it’s my freedom.”

At the time, Norwegian media reported that Braathen said that he decided four weeks before the announcement to end his career and that he had a long-standing conflict with the national ski federation over athlete marketing rights, which included a preseason photo shoot with a brand that was unauthorized.

“It honestly felt quite far-fetched to ever return to the sport in that moment,” he said Thursday. “Progressively, it became more and more difficult to watch these races and not be a part of the show.”

After spending some time in Brazil, Braathen decided in January that he wanted to return.

In Braathen’s absence, Austrian Manuel Feller has been the top men’s slalom skier this season.

A Brazilian last raced on the World Cup in 2016.

The best Brazilian Alpine result at the Olympics was Swiss-born Nikolai Hentsch’s 30th-place finish in the giant slalom in 2006.

No athlete from South America has ever won a Winter Olympic medal in any sport.

“During my time away from the sport, what I found very difficult was not waking up every day on the pursuit of becoming the best in the world in something,” Braathen said. “Obviously, the lack of time spent on the activity that brings me the most joy, which is skiing.”