Austrian ski star Hermann Maier retires at 36 |

Austrian ski star Hermann Maier retires at 36

FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2008 file picture, Austria's Hermann Maier celebrates his second place finish in the men's World Cup Super G ski race at Beaver Creek, Colo.. Austrian ski star Hermann Maier has announced his retirement. The 36-year-old Maier on Tuesday Oct. 13, 2009 cited physical problems after a kee injury in the offseason as the main reason for quitting the sport. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati, file)

VIENNA – Two-time Olympic champion Hermann Maier retired Tuesday, ending a career in which he became one of Alpine skiing’s most prolific racers and almost lost a leg in a motorcycle accident in 2001.

The 36-year-old Maier cited surgery on his right knee in the offseason as the main reason for his retirement.

The Austrian speed specialist won two golds at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, and earned three world championship titles. He won 54 World Cup races and four overall titles, putting him second only to Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark, who captured 86 race victories.

“I gave it a lot of thought but decided spontaneously that now is the best time for retirement,” Maier said.

He had knee surgery after the World Cup season ended in March, and only began training on skis last week at the glacier in Soelden.

“I am healthy now and that’s the way I want to live on,” Maier said, fighting back tears at a news conference. “I wanted to become fit once more and I’ve accomplished that now. In this good condition, I could decide whether to go on with my career or not.”

Maier’s career nearly ended after a horrific motorcycle accident eight years ago, which kept him sidelined for almost two years. Doctors contemplated amputating his lower leg after the crash, but the Austrian returned to win the overall and super-G World Cup titles in 2004.

The Austrian ski federation said it hoped Maier will stay involved in the sport.

“It would be great if Hermann could share his great experience with the younger guys on the team,” the federation’s Alpine director Hans Pum said.

Maier said he hasn’t made any decisioins about his future.

“For now, I am just glad I took this decision,” he said. “I am looking forward to the time coming up, which obviously will include some exciting things.”

Maier had little success as a junior and didn’t make the Austrian World Cup team until 1996, when he was 23. He won his first race a year later in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

At the Nagano Games, Maier had a dramatic full-speed crash in the downhill race but won the giant slalom and super-G races a few days later. That earned him the nickname “The Herminator,” a reference to Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character.

Maier’s last race victory was a super-G in November in Lake Louise, Alberta.

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