Berliner Tageblatt - Retired Austrian ski great Hirscher to make comeback under Dutch flag

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Retired Austrian ski great Hirscher to make comeback under Dutch flag
Retired Austrian ski great Hirscher to make comeback under Dutch flag / Photo: © AFP/File

Retired Austrian ski great Hirscher to make comeback under Dutch flag

Austria's two-time Olympic ski champion Mircel Hirscher is coming out of retirement to compete under the flag of the Netherlands, the Austrian ski federation announced on Wednesday.

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The Netherlands may not be known as a go-to ski destination -- the country's highest mountain measures just 322 metres (1,056 feet) above sea level.

But Hirscher, 35, plans to return to the World Cup circuit next season under the Dutch flag for the first time since his retirement in 2019.

The eight-time overall World Cup champion's decision to switch nationality has been greeted with a certain reluctance by the Austrian ski authorities.

"Over the past few days we have learned that Marcel Hirscher plans to return to the international circuit," Austrian ski chief Christian Scherer noted in a statement.

"Of course we regret enormously his decision to ask for a change of nationality to join the Dutch Ski Federation but we have finally given it our support...by respect to him," Scherer added.

Hirscher, the son of an Austrian father and Dutch mother, explained his reasoning in switching to represent a different country.

"I have an excellent relationship with the OSV (Austrian Ski Federation) and am grateful to them for everything we have achieved. This new project is best realised as a Dutch citizen," he said.

Hirscher added: "I retired five years ago, I am now 35 years old.

"My comeback must therefore also be seen in that light.

"I especially want the opportunity to participate in competitions again, just because I enjoy it."

The Dutch are thrilled at the prospect of Hirscher competing in their colours.

"The fact that Marcel Hirscher plans to work for the Netherlands and to ski for the NSkiV is an absolute honour," said Dutch ski federation general director Fritz Avis.

"Marcel is a global icon and an inspiration for all skiers and winter sports enthusiasts in the Netherlands," he continued.

"We hope that this will stimulate interest and that enthusiasm for winter sports will get a boost in our already winter sports crazy country."

Hirscher is one of the greats of the sport and his collection of eight consecutive overall World Cup crystal globes from 2012 to 2019 remains a record.

He retired with 67 World Cup wins, claimed Olympic gold in slalom and combined at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, and has seven world titles to his name.

Since retirement Hirscher, who has rock star status in ski-addicted Austria, set up his own ski company.

L.Dubois--BTB