Olympics Without a Trace
Vertigo Forces World Freestyle Aerial Champion Worthington to Retire

Worthington Collects World Cup Frequent Flier Miles
Friday September 12, 1997

America's most successful freestyle skier, Trace Worthington, announced his retirement from ski competition on Friday, Sept. 5. Worthington was diagnosed with vertigo early in 1996, but returned to World Cup skiing this winter. He has been training this summer and was looking forward to the Olympics, but "that's not to be," he said.

"As I've seen in the last two seasons, this thing can roll in at any time, and I didn't want to be on this roller-coaster any longer. I've been up and down for too long," Worthington said.

Worthington, 27, holds 43 World Cup victories and, three winters ago was the first skier ever to earn two gold medals at the World Cup Freestyle Ski Championships. It was in December of 1995 that something much more dangerous than the shoulder and knee problems he had overcome to retain his titles threatened his career.

"It started with a simple fall. I had a normal "slap-back" jump where you land and tumble down a little bit. It was just a regular crash fall like an extreme skier might have," Worthington said in a Mountain Zone "Playing In Style" interview last year. He had suffered a minor concussion; sinus and ear infections followed, and so did several more falls. Worthington had lost his equilibrium.

"I could look down at the jumps, and I couldn't even picture my jump, how I would do it. It was the scariest thing in the world, knowing that you can't picture something that you've done for so long. I didn't know what to do," he said in the interview last year. Worthington sat out most of the '96 season.

At that time, the US Freestyle Coach Wayne Hilterbrand said, "As much as he didn't want to quit competing, he knew in his head that it was the thing he needed to do. And as much as I didn't want him to quit competing, I knew that was what he had to do in order for him to come back and be a viable candidate for the 1998 Olympics."

Not for lack of trying, unfortunately Worthington's attempt at a second comeback is not going to happen.

"That's not to be. I've trained hard again this summer but I wasn't where I wanted to be. The problem is only at the highest level of tricks, and then it's really only a question of consistency. Vertigo's a physical thing, but you never know when it's going to come back," the two time Olympian said in his announcement.

"I've been to two Olympics, and I know I could qualify again this winter but I don't want to go and be fifth or 10th. I want to win, to be on the podium. I gave it my shot. I've done all the right things and it hasn't worked, so I'm stopping on a high note," Worthington, who has been approached to do endorsements and television commentaries, said.

Worthington hopes to be a part of the Nagano commentary team, has spoken to TNT Sports and will be meeting with CBS Sports, he said. So Worthington will be at the Olympics some way or another and has had an amazing nine year career. In seemingly good spirits, Worthington said, "I've got seven (World Cup) crystal globes over my bed right now and that's huge; I look at 'em every night and I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish. But now it's time to move on."

Sarah Love, Mountain Zone Staff

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