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Three U.S. Olympic cross-country skiers retire one year before Winter Games

Sadie Maubet Bjornsen

LENZERHEIDE, SWITZERLAND - DECEMBER 28: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Sadie Maubet Bjornsen of USA in action competes during the Women’s 10 km F Mst at the FIS Cross-Country World Cup Lenzerheide at on December 28, 2019 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

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U.S. cross-country skiers Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, Sophie Caldwell Hamilton and Simi Hamilton, who made a combined seven Olympic teams and 471 World Cup starts, have retired less than one year before the Winter Games.

Maubet Bjornsen, 31, ended her career at the world championships last week. She competed at the Olympics in 2014 and 2018, earned a world championships bronze medal in 2017 (team sprint) and made six World Cup podiums in individual races.

She considered retiring after last season but returned for one more campaign in a bid to help the U.S. earn its first relay medal at worlds. The quartet finished fourth, eight tenths of a second out of bronze.

“I knew in my heart we were forming into the strongest relay team we had ever had, and I felt the need to lay it all on the line for my team,” was posted on her Instagram after the race. “While we missed it by less than a second today, it was worth putting my heart and soul in one last time with this gritty, tough, and graceful team. BIttersweet, but more sweet than bitter in the words of @sophiecaldwell.”

Maubet Bjornsen left professional racing to spend time at home with husband Jo and pursue an accounting career with a degree from Alaska Pacific University.

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Caldwell Hamilton, 30, planned to make this weekend’s World Cup season-ending races her last, but a positive coronavirus test on Monday ruled that out. She has since had two negative tests and is feeling healthy, according to her Instagram.

Caldwell Hamilton also competed at the Olympics in 2014 and 2018, plus each of the last six world championships. She made 10 World Cup podiums in individual races (all sprints) and earned two victories.

“While this is frustrating and heartbreaking, we understand that health is the priority and we are grateful to be healthy,” was posted on her Instagram. “I’m not sure where time went, but now I find myself as one of the oldest athletes on the team, and while it’s become more difficult for me to find my own competitive spark, the joy I’ve gotten from being able to overlap with my younger teammates more than makes up for it. I find myself wanting to impart as much ‘wisdom’ as I can, but I also know they’re going to forge their own paths that are different from ours, but can hopefully be shaped by ours, like I felt mine was shaped by those who came before me. I’ve found myself feeling a lot of feelings about moving on from competitive sport, but I’m mostly excited.”

Caldwell Hamilton’s husband, a three-time Olympian, also planned to race for the final time this weekend. But, as a close contact, he was among those put in isolation after her positive test and, under rules in the host nation of Switzerland, must quarantine through the competition, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard.

In 2013, Hamilton became the second U.S. male cross-country skier to win a World Cup after Bill Koch, taking a stage of the Tour de Ski.

“It’s heartbreaking to not be taking part in a final celebratory weekend of racing to cap off our careers, or to not even be able step outside of our rooms, but it’s also important to remind ourselves that there are millions of people in this world who have been emotionally, physically, and financially rocked by this virus, and I am humbly grateful that it has not had a significant impact on my wellbeing or the wellbeing of those closest to me,” was posted on the 33-year-old Hamilton’s Instagram. “I don’t really know what to say about retiring other than I know I am ready to finally close this chapter of my life and begin the next adventure alongside my best friend @sophiecaldwell.”

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