Fleischer ends his run | VailDaily.com

Fleischer ends his run

Don Rogers

The blur under the leopard-spotted helmet and hair has retired from the U.S. ski team. The sport, the team and Vail are the lesser for it. Chad Fleischer, by all accounts, is not only a great skier, but a great ambassador.

He’s a hometown kid made good, too, starting with Ski Club Vail and working his way to a couple of national downhill championships, a second place World Cup circuit finish in Spain in 1999, and a sixth place finish at – where else? – Beaver Creek in World Cup competition. He participated in two Winter Olympics, and had been aiming for the 2006 Games when he decided it was time to move on from ski racing at the sport’s highest level.

With his trademark hair and comeback-kid returns from five knee surgeries, among his assorted tumbles and dings, Fleischer is one of the enduring personalities in the ski racing universe.

His low point was trashing his right knee in Wengen, Switzerland, in January 2002 – just weeks before what should have been his crowning moment at the 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake City, Utah.

The knee was not the impetus for retirement, though.

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Dr. Richard Steadman and John Atkins of Howard Head Sports Medicine had his knee back at 100 percent, Fleischer said. And his coaches thought he was actually ahead of schedule in this latest comeback.

But something happened between looking forward a week ago to the 2006 Olympics at New York’s Lake Placid and declaring this week that he knows now is “when to say when.”

Ski racing at any level is all about pushing limits to the edge. The racer needs confidence, sure, and talent He also must have that unbreakable will to bust through those limits. That’s where Fleischer, after 19 years of racing, saw some give, just enough so to call it a career.

He leaves competitive skiing with a ton of admirers for his skills and for the character he’s displayed through his career.

Through the glory and world travels, he clearly never forgot home. He serves on the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail board, set up a scholarship for that next Chad Fleischer or Sarah Schlepper, visits Battle Mountain High School (where he graduated in 1990) to give motivational talks, and generally has done a fine job as role model for Vail Valley kids – and adults.

For now, he moves to the broadcasters booth for OLN, covering ski racing. He’s also working with Ignition Entertainment, which promotes action sports.

And who knows, maybe locals will see more of him on Vail and Beaver Creek’s slopes, now that he can ski for fun.

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