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Maren Lundby, Olympic champ, advocate for change, retires from ski jumping

Maren Lundby

Norway’s Maren Lundby celebrates winning on the podium after the women’s HS137 large hill jumping event at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Oberstdorf, southern Germany, on March 3, 2021. (Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Olympic ski jumping champion Maren Lundby, who fought for gender equality and raised health issues within her sport, retired at age 29.

In a tearful press conference, Lundby said she no longer feels the spark to compete at the highest level.

“She has been on the Norwegian national team since 2007, and has won just about everything within the sport,” was posted on Norway’s ski jumping program’s social media. “She has spent a lot of time and energy fighting for equality and the right to the same opportunities and respect as our male athletes.”

In 2018, Lundby became the second woman to win an Olympic ski jumping gold medal, four years after female ski jumpers made their Olympic debut.

She tacked on world titles in 2019 and 2021, then opted out of the entire 2021-22 season, including her Olympic title defense.

She had told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that her body changed in the 2021 offseason and that she did not want to “sacrifice everything to be at the best level in Beijing.”

“I’m a few kilos too heavy for the highest level,” Lundby told NRK in 2021. “And I’m not willing to do crazy things to change that.”

Lundby was lauded for the decision in a sport that has in the past been marred by eating disorders and drastic weight loss.

She was feted with several national awards, including “Name of the Year” at an annual Norway sports gala in January 2022. Other nominees included soccer star Erling Haaland and Summer Olympic champions Karsten Warholm, Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Kristian Blummenfelt.

Lundby returned to competition last season and won individual silver and team bronze at the world championships. Her lone competition this season was an Oct. 7 Grand Prix in Klingenthal, Germany, where she was 33rd.

Lundby’s 30 World Cup wins and 62 podiums are second in women’s ski jumping history behind Japan’s Sara Takanashi, who has 63 victories and 115 podiums.

Lundby also advocated for women to be able to compete in sky flying, which is contested on bigger hills than ski jumping with athletes soaring farther. World championships for men have been held since 1972.

The first International Ski Federation-sanctioned women’s sky flying competition was held last March in Vikersund, Norway.

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.