Arguably the top Swedish female skier of all, Anja Pärson announced March 13 she plans to retire from professional skiing because of a string of injuries.
The 30-year-old Swede, an Olympic gold medalist in 2006 and seven-time World Cup champion, said in a statement on the Svenska Skidförbundet that injuries, mostly to her left knee, have slowed her to the point she can no longer compete.
“My career has been fantastic and I’ve achieved more than I could ever dream of,” Pärson said. “The last years, with all the spectacular crashes and protracted injury problems, have reduced my chances to perform at the top level.”
Pärson won 19 medals at major championships—six at the Olympics and 13 at the worlds. She has won 42 World Cup races since her debut in 1998 and clinched overall titles in 2004 and 2005. She was the first skier to win world championship gold medals in all five disciplines.
After winning a bronze medal in the slalom at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, she returned four years later to capture gold in the same event in Turin. At three Olympics, she won four bronzes and a silver to go with her gold.
“I have always been a fighter and this is a tough decision,” she said. “But after some time of thought and many discussions with myself I feel I’m ready for new challenges in my life.”
Pärson won three gold medals at the 2007 world championships in Åre, Sweden, and a bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics. She opened the Vancouver Games with a horrendous crash in the downhill—sliding across the finish line headfirst—then came back 24 hours later to win bronze in super-combined.
“I just couldn’t let the hill in Whistler defeat me,” Pärson said. “In addition I’ll always remember the great duels between me and Janica Kostelic, and other fantastic skiers.”
Lindsey Vonn, who clinched the World Cup overall title for 2011-12, said Parson remained one of the best skiers throughout her career.
“She’s won in every discipline, has world championship medals, Olympic medals and a couple of overall titles,” Vonn said. “But beyond what she’s done as an athlete, she’s been driving the women’s World Cup forward as a significant member of the Athletes Council. I’ll miss her on the tour but know she’ll stay close to the sport.”

Myhrer lands shock victory
Maybe it wasn’t all downhill this season for Swedish skier Andre Myhrer.
Myhrer crowned a strong finish to his slalom season March 18 by winning the last race and securing the World Cup discipline title in slalom at Shladming, Austria.
The Swede was third in the standings going into the race but overtook leader Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, who finished 16th, and second-place Marcel Hirscher of Austria, who straddled a gate and failed to score points.
“This is a great feeling, I am all over the place,” Myhrer said. “I am very happy. I have been working a long time for this.”
For most of the season, Kostelic and Hirscher dominated the slalom discipline and shared eight wins between them. The turnaround came in Kransjka Gora, Slovenia, where Kostelic only managed a 16th-place finish and Hirscher went out.
Myhrer won that race and suddenly became an outside contender, still trailing Kostelic by 66 points and Hirscher by 16.
“I had only a small chance and I knew I had to just focus on my skiing,” Myhrer said. “I was a bit nervous before my final run but just tried to ski like I normally do.”
Myhrer finished in 1 minute, 32.47 seconds to win his second slalom of the season and fourth overall. Felix Neureuther, who led the race after the first run, came 0.30 behind in second and Mario Matt of Austria was third, 0.60 behind.
After the first run, Myhrer knew his rivals were both out of the points and he needed to come in first or second for the title.
Kostelic, who won the overall and slalom title last year, came in almost 19 seconds behind as he had to hike up the hill after a mistake at the fourth gate.
“I wanted to attack but I overdid,” said Kostelic, who underwent knee surgery last month. “My body is not in great shape so I have to take a lot of risks to be as fast as the other guys.”
Hirscher, who won the overall championship, failed to finish after straddling a gate. It was the fifth time in 11 slaloms this season that the Austrian went out.
“It was not easy after all that happened yesterday,” Hirscher said. “I was so focused on the fight with Beat (Feuz) for the overall that I am lacking a bit of energy now. I wanted to race today, I tried it, but it just wasn’t there.”
The slalom was the last race of the men’s World Cup season.

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Swedish baseball prospects take different paths
The top Swedish-born baseball prospects are taking different routes as they look to make it to the Big League.
Hard-throwing right-hander Bryan Berglund, a 2009 draft pick of the Florida Marlins, is apparently completely healthy after missing all of 2011 with an injury. The now 21-year-old, 6-foot-4-inch righty was a non-roster invitee of the Marlins at Spring Training but doesn’t currently figure in the team’s plans.
Berglund tore the labrum in his left shoulder sometime early in 2010, but didn’t think much of it until the pain got progressively worse, reaching the point where he couldn’t even scratch the top of his head with his right arm or lay on his right side.
“The pain came out of nowhere. It was unexpected and I just figured at first it was shoulder soreness,” Berglund said. “But even after taking a few weeks off, it never got better, so I decided to have surgery.”
Berglund is working out at the Marlins’ spring training facility in Jupiter, Fla., where he performs rehabilitation six days a week.
He is living at a Hilton Garden Inn, and plays video games and watches television in his down time.
“I have made some friends around here with a few guys who are in the rehab also,” Berglund said. “They are all just about done, but I have been talking to them about stuff and with my friends and family back home to keep my mind off of it.”
Although Berglund would have rather played immediately after being drafted, he did find a bright side in the setback.
“I guess it’s better now than when I am 25 or something,” he said. “People have told me usually if you tear it and have surgery, it can be stronger than before.”
Former Princeton University and Seattle Mariners draft pick Christian Staehely decided to take a different approach. After playing for two years in the Mariners’ organization, the right-handed relief pitcher went the independent route, signing for the El Paso Diablos and the Laredo Broncos. Over the winter, he went one step further, signing a two-year deal with T&A San Marino of the Italian Baseball League.
Staehely went 6-3 in 41 games minor league games with a 4.16 ERA. He had 72 strikeouts to 32 walks and allowed 75 hits in 69.2 innings.

Chipp Reid