March 12, 2012

Anja Paerson, an Olympic gold medalist in 2006 and seven-time world champion skier, plans to retire after this week's World Cup finals because of a string of injuries.

The 30-year-old Swede said in a statement on her country's ski federation website Monday that she has been slowed by the injuries, especially to her left knee.

"My career has been fantastic and I've achieved more than I could ever dream of," Paerson said. "The last years, with all the spectacular crashes and protracted injury problems, have reduced my chances to perform at the top level."

Paerson 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.

The races in Schladming, Austria, this week will be her last.

"I have always been a fighter and this is a tough decision," she said. "But after some time of thoughts and many discussions with myself I feel I'm ready for new challenges in my life."

Paerson won three gold medals at the 2007 world championships in Are, 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," Paerson 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 last week, said Paerson 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."

Paerson said she would serve on the athletes' commission of the international ski federation for another year. The Swedish Ski Association said Paerson's "achievements will always be in the hearts of the Swedish people."

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