Norway’s reigning World Cup slalom champion, Lucas Braathen, has announced his surprise retirement at the age of 23, saying he felt “free” for the first time in years.
“I retire. I told my teammates yesterday,” Braathen, the winner of five World Cup races, told reporters in an emotional press conference in the Austrian resort of Soelden on the eve of the new Alpine ski season.
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“I’m done,” Braathen added. “I am a person that has 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.”
The Norwegian Alpine sport director, Claus Johan Ryste, reportedly called Braathen’s retirement from skiing “a complete surprise”. There have been reports of a dispute between the skier and the Norwegian federation over image rights in recent weeks.
“I received word of Lucas’s decision just before the press conference began, and this came as a complete surprise to both me and the rest of the support team,” Ryste said, in quotes reported by Eurosport.
Braathen said he was unsure what the future holds. “I’m going to go on my little journey on my own now, to try to find out what my next journey is, and I’m so excited for that,” he said. He also shared a short video on Instagram, which simply read “thank you”.
The World Cup season starts in Soelden on Saturday with a women’s giant slalom, followed by the men on Sunday. Braathen won his first World Cup race at the resort in October 2020, before winning his first title in last year’s slalom competition.