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Nef bows out of skiing spotlight

Nef said a tearful goodbye on Tuesday in Sestriere Keystone

Sonja Nef, Switzerland's best female skier over the past decade, is hanging up her skis at the age of 33, citing health reasons and a lack of recent success.

This content was published on February 21, 2006 - 16:12

The 2002 Olympic-medal winner announced her retirement at the Turin Winter Games five days before they close.

Nef has been plagued by health problems, which have prevented her from regaining the form that saw her win Olympic bronze in the giant slalom at Salt Lake City in 2002.

She said that she been suffering from a painful hip infection since the end of January, which had blighted this year's ski season.

"From a sports point of view the end of the [last] season would have been the right time," Nef told a specially assembled press conference in Sestriere on Tuesday.

"But at that time I wasn't ready. Therefore it was important for me to do another season, even when it has ended differently to how I really wanted."

Top of the world

Nef won 15 World Cup races – 13 of which were in the giant slalom – and finished in the top three on 32 occasions.

She began her career in 1993 in a giant slalom event in Sweden where she finished in 22nd place. Three years later she won her first World Cup giant slalom.

However, her career was put on the backburner as she recovered from a knee injury. She returned to form in 1999 and over the next four years won 14 World Cup races, became giant slalom world champion (2001) and secured Olympic bronze.

Nef, who suffered seven knee injuries between 1989 and 2003, attempted comebacks during the 2004/5 and 2005/6 seasons.

Gian Gilli, head of competition at the Swiss Ski Federation, said Nef's achievements spoke for themselves.

"As far as attitude and will are concerned, she is a shining example to younger athletes," he said.

As for what would come next, Nef said she was undecided, despite having received several offers.

"First of all, I just want to enjoy life, nothing more than that," she said.

Nef is among the top seven Swiss skiers of the past three decades. Only Vreni Schneider (55 wins), Erika Hess (31 wins), Michela Figini (26 wins), Maria Walliser (25 wins), Marie-Theres Nadig and Lise-Marie Morerod (each with 24 World Cup race successes) were more successful than Nef.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Sonja Nef:
2001: World champion in giant slalom.
2002: Olympic bronze at Salt Lake City.
She was twice World Cup giant slalom champion.
She also won 15 World Cup races.

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