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VanderBeek retires: injured knee 'not quite there'

Alpine team struggles through another week of races

Kelly VanderBeek hung up her speed suit on Saturday, retiring from the sport after missing almost three complete seasons due to a 2009 knee injury and then struggling to come back 2012. She's competed just four times since her injury and in the end was never 100 per cent.

"As a ski racer I as prepared for injury but the extent of the knee injury I suffered in 2009 was bigger than I expected," she said.

'I've always believed I would get back and I'm proud to say I got back... Unfortunately, I've decided that Sochi 2014 isn't going to be a possibility because the knee isn't quite there. But at the same time I think of the experiences that I've had over the past three years and I wouldn't trade them for the world."

VanderBeek missed the 2010 Games, where she was a bona fide contender in the women's speed events before crashing during a training run in France in December 2009. The injuries were extensive. She tore the posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligament in her left knee, dislodged her IT band with a piece of bone, suffered a tibial plateau fracture and damaged the cartilage under her kneecap. After surgery, she stayed involved with the sport as a broadcaster during and after the 2010 Games.

She always meant to race in Sochi, but realized that it probably won't happen for her.

"I've got to the point where I can have a healthy leg and I'm extremely grateful for that," she said. "But I'm not just looking for a knee that can get me down the mountain, I need a knee that can get me down the mountain as fast as the best in the world.

"Time just isn't on my side. For me, having the chance to be in Sochi just to participate isn't enough. I want to shoot for the fences. I want to win."

VanderBeek earned her first World Cup podium in Super G at Lake Louise in 2006 in her fifth season on the circuit, and added two more podiums in 2007 and 2008. She also finished in the top 10 some 20 times in 113 World Cup starts. In 2006, she missed the Olympic podium by just three hundreds of a second.

VanderBeek hopes to continue working as a broadcaster for CTV, CBC and Sportsnet while continuing to develop her photography business, Beginnings by Kelly.

As for leaving skiing, she said it helped to know that she was leaving the team in good hands, like Erin Mielzynski and Maire-Michele Gagnon.

"I worked with them and watched them grow," she said. "That's one of the things that has kept me going as long as I have — I wanted to train with them and watch them excel. I'm not leaving as the only podium athlete. These girls are so young. The future is very bright."

Canadian athletes struggle

The two elements of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team's that are struggling most these days are the men's technical team and women's speed team, and both raced this past weekend.

In Adelboden, Switzerland, the men took part in giant slalom and slalom races, failing to qualify for a second run in the top 30 at both events. American Ted Ligety won the men's GS by 1.15 seconds, followed by Germans Fritz Dopfer and Felix Neureuther. Jean-Philippe Roy, Philip Brown and Erik Read did not qualify for Canada, while Dustin Cook didn't finish the first run.

In slalom, the fastest skier in the first run was Sasha Zaitsoff, followed by Erik Read and Julien Cousineau. Mike Janyk, who is posting fast splits this year, was knocked out with his third consecutive DNF. Marcel Hirscher and Mario Matt were first and second for Austria, followed by Manfred Moelgg of Italy.

At the women's speed events in St. Anton, Austria, Larisa Yurkiw was the only Canadian, finishing in 37th. Alice McKennis of the U.S. was first, followed by Daniela Merighetti of Italy and Anna Fenninger of Austria.

In Super G, Marie-Pier Prefontaine placed 40th while Yurkiw was a DNF. Tina Maze of Slovenia won her sixth race and 13th podium of the season to further her lead in the overall, followed by Annan Fenninger and Fabienne Suter of Switzerland.

Canada's best result this week was Erin Mielzynksi's 10th place finish in the night slalom at Flachau, Austria, on Jan. 15. Elli Terwiel placed 17th in that event. None of the others qualified for a second run.

U.S. sensation Mikaela Shiffrin took the win, followed by Friday Hansdotter of Sweden and Tanja Poutaianen of Finland.