By Andrew Mitchell
Although long-suspected, veteran ski racer Thomas Grandi made his retirement from skiing official Sunday, with no immediate plans to do anything but spend some time with his wife, cross-country Olympic medalist Sara Renner, and newborn daughter Aria.
“Today I’m handing in my skis for a new life,” he said at a press conference in Whistler.
“Getting up in the morning to change diapers is going to be my biggest challenge for the next little while.”
After setting several national team records in the 2005-06 season — including the first back-to-back gold medals in giant slalom by a Canadian athlete — Grandi is coming off a disappointing year without a single podium. At 34 he is still a capable skier, and younger than some top European racers, but he decided it was time to retire.
“One thing that you really need is that fire in your belly when you are ski racing because you have to be willing to take chances, to take risks. You need that to be competitive and to be the best,” he said.
“I just didn’t have that fire this year and to me that was a clear sign it was time to move on.”
Grandi is the first Canadian male to win technical events at the World Cup level. He finishes his career with two victories in giant slalom and a total of nine podium finishes — five in slalom and four in GS.
Grandi considered retiring several times in his roller coaster 14 years with the national team, but in recent years he found the consistency that let him compete among the top racers in the world. His leadership is credited for laying the foundations for Canada’s next generation of technical skiers, including skiers like Paul Stutz, Michael Janyk, Francois Bourque, Stefan Guay, and Patrick Biggs.
Ken Read, the CEO of Alpine Canada, gave Grandi his due.
“No Canadian (male) had ever made a significant mark in the technical events of alpine skiing before Thomas came along,” he said. “He almost single-handedly worked with the coaches of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team to become a champion. He also has been a tremendous leader in building a team that has respect and is aiming to be amongst the leaders in 2010.”
In addition to his nine World Cup podium appearances Grandi earned 11 Canadian Championship titles. He was second in last week’s slalom at the Pontiac GMC Canadian Championships on Whistler Mountain. He finished eighth in Saturday’s giant slalom.
Grandi was born in Bolzano, Italy but his family moved to Canada when he was two. He grew up in Banff and now lives in Canmore, Alberta.