Lindsey Vonn, Marcel Hirscher, Lee Chong Wei, Javier Fernandez: the Olympic medallists who retired in 2019

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Nicola Adams, and Axel Lund Svindal were among the other Olympic champions who ended their careers this year.

By ZK Goh

A new year is almost upon us, an Olympic year, and it's time to look back at those the world of sport bid farewell to in 2019.

Injuries, health concerns, and "real life" were just some of the reasons why these stars decided to call time on their sporting careers.

Here we pick out a few Olympic medallists and champions who retired from competing this year, listed in alphabetical order by family name.

Nicola Adams (Great Britain; boxing)

Britain's Nicola Adams became the first woman to win Olympic boxing gold, making history at her home Games of London 2012 where the sport was introduced for women fighters for the first time ever.

Adams then successfully defended her Olympic title at Rio 2016.

The 37-year-old, who turned professional in 2017, announced on social media on 6 November that she had decided to retire from the sport for medical reasons.

Kelly Clark (United States of America; snowboarding)

One of the most successful snowboarders ever, Kelly Clark made history at Salt Lake City 2002 by becoming the first U.S. athlete to win a snowboard Olympic gold.

She also won bronze at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, and clinched seven X-Games titles and eight U.S. Open wins in her 20-year career.

Clark announced her retirement in January after a career that spanned five Olympic Games from 2002 to 2018.

Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon; football)

An Olympic champion at Sydney 2000, Samuel Eto'o also won three UEFA Champions League titles with Barcelona and Inter Milan in his 22-year career.

The Cameroonian retired as his country's top international goalscorer, with 56 goals.

Javier Fernández (Spain; figure skating)

Javier Fernández, Spain's double world champion, officially hung up his skates this year after winning European gold.

The PyeongChang 2018 bronze medallist told Olympic Channel in November 2018 of his intention to end his career at the European Championships in Minsk.

And the Spaniard overcame a nine-point deficit after the short program in the Belarusian capital to win his seventh straight European title, equalling Evgeny Plushenko's record for number of wins at the Europeans.

Marcel Hirscher (Austria; alpine skiing)

Double Olympic champion Marcel Hirscher retired from alpine skiing in September.

In a press conference screened live on national television in Austria, the 30-year-old announced he would quit the sport.

During his career, Hirscher won eight World Cup overall crystal globes and recorded 67 race victories on that circuit, behind only Ingemar Stenmark in men's wins.

He also racked up three Olympic medals (two gold) and 11 World Championship podium finishes (seven gold).

Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia; badminton)

Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei announced his retirement from badminton in June after failing to regain full fitness following treatment for nose cancer.

He was World No. 1 for 199 consecutive weeks between 2008 and 2012, meaning he has spent a lifetime challenging Chinese sovereignty in the sport.

Lee reached three Olympic finals, taking silver at Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016. He lost to superstar shuttler Lin Dan twice in Beijing and London, and Chen Long at Rio 2016.

He has since been named Malaysia's chef-de-mission for Tokyo 2020, although he has turned down coaching and mentorship roles.

Sally Pearson (Australia; athletics)

In August, Australia's hurdles poster girl Sally Pearson announced her shock retirement from track and field a year out from the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Pearson, 32, said multiple injuries meant she would not be able to compete at her best in Japan, and left her in too much pain.

"At the end of the day, it was wearing me down as a person as well. I was unhappy and cranky all the time. I just wasn't a nice person to be around," she said at a press conference.

Asked what her future held, she said: "Just [...] get my life back now and hopefully no more injuries."

Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway; alpine skiing)

PyeongChang downhill champion Aksel Lund Svindal gave notice before the World Championships that the meet in Sweden would be the last one of his career.

The Norwegian's career spanned 17 years, during which he won two Olympic golds (the Vancouver 2010 Super-G in addition to downhill in 2018) and five world titles.

He won bronze in his final race, the 2019 World Championships downhill.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Canada; figure skating)

After 22 years as an ice dance couple, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir announced the formal end to their competitive careers in September.

The duo hadn't competed since winning double gold at PyeongChang 2018, and made their absence from figure skating final with an emotional video posted on social media.

They won five Olympic medals from three appearances – three gold (2010 and 2018 ice dance and 2018 team) and two silver (2014 ice dance and team).

Lindsey Vonn (United States of America; alpine skiing)

In the end, it was injury that brought the career of (as of now) the winningest female skier of all time to a close.

Lindsey Vonn confirmed in February that recurring knee issues meant she would retire after one last World Championships.

The 2010 Olympic downhill champion ended her career with world bronze in Åre, in addition to 82 World Cup wins, just four behind the all-time record of Ingemar Stenmark.

Saori Yoshida (Japan, wrestling)

There's no arguing the facts: Japan's Saori Yoshida is the most successful wrestler, male or female, ever.

She won 13 straight world titles and three Olympic gold medals, with her sole defeat in four Olympic Games coming in the Rio 2016 53 kg final.

Her career spanned 2002 to 2019, and aside from her debut year at 59 kg, remained unbeaten in major international competitions at the lower weight until the Rio final 14 years later.

Bonus: Usain Bolt (Jamaica; "from all sport")

Here's a bonus entry: Usain Bolt might have retired from track in 2017, but the Jamaican eight-time Olympic champion had been trying his luck at football.

After unsuccessful trials with a number of clubs, it appeared that Bolt might have finally landed on his feet with Australia's Central Coast Mariners.

But the club and Bolt's representatives were unable to come to an agreement on a contract, with his agent Ricky Simms eventually confirming to the Olympic Channel that the sprint legend had retired from all sport.


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