Road To The Olympic Games

Injuries force skier Allison Forsyth to retire

Canadian alpine skier Allison Forsyth confirmed Wednesday that she is retiring because of chronic pain in her left knee.

Alpine skier Allison Forsyth confirmed Wednesday that she is retiring because of chronic pain in her left knee.

Forsyth, 29, won a bronze medal in the giant slalom at the world championships five years ago, and reached the podium five times in World Cup events.

But the native of Nanaimo, B.C., never fully recovered from a left knee injury suffered in training for the women's downhill at the 2006 Turin Olympic Winter Games.

"I have pain now to the point where I struggle to ride a bike," Forsyth told reporters at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park, site of the retirement announcement.

"You know the forces involved with ski racing [and] there was no way it was going to happen. We did everything we could."

No cartilage remains on Forsyth's femur, making it difficult for her to train in the gym.

"I put some weight on the bar and tried to do a squat [and] I winced in pain," she said. "It was, literally, muscle shut down.

"My body was going to have nothing of it. I have always been fighting an uphill battle.

"That is when it hit me it was a losing battle. It was just time."

Forsyth, one of the most determined skiers on the World Cup circuit, won four silver medals and one bronze in giant slalom, her favourite discipline, between 1999 and 2005.

The crowning jewel, of course, remains the bronze medal she won at the 2003 worlds in St. Moritz, Switzerland.  

"I went into that event skiing excruciatingly bad," Forsyth said. "To the point I did not even know if I was going to compete.

"I mentally pulled a 180 and managed to convince myself I was the best in the world. It proved my mental capacity in the sport for the first time."

"Allison was always focused on achieving excellence and she proved that she had what it takes," Alpine Canada chief executive officer Ken Read said.

Crashed in Olympic training

Forsyth's promising career took a turn for the worse when she was one of four veteran skiers to wipe out in training for the Olympic downhill at San Sicario, Italy, on Feb. 13, 2006.

The others were Elisabeth Goergl, Lindsey Kildow and defending Olympic champion Carole Montillet-Carles.

"It took about 15 seconds for me to realize what happened," Forsyth said of her crash into the safety netting, in which she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee and extensive bruising to the femur and tibia.

"That was kind of a 'See you in 2010' moment for me."

Adding insult to injury was the fact that she had been dealing with divorce proceedings and her mother's battle with inflammatory breast cancer.

Forsyth returned to Canada for season-ending surgery and sat out the following season, only to reinjure the knee during training for the opening giant slalom of the 2007-08 World Cup season in Solden, Austria.

"It has been a roller-coaster of emotions," Forsyth told reporters last Nov. 23. "It is very disappointing I cannot come back to ski racing and I do not have an opportunity to wear that pink helmet that was such a huge part of my campaign [to honour her late mother, Marion]."

Forsyth regrets not being able to represent Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"I'm disappointed and saddened," she said. "I really hoped to be a competitor in Vancouver in 2010.

"Once the Olympics come around, I will have a whole new wave of sadness. However, I'm relieved.

"It has been such a battle and a struggle, particularly in the last five months. In a way, I'm relieved it is over.

"I can rest my knee and not push it beyond places where it does not really want to go. I will always walk away proud of the effort I put in trying to get back."

Forsyth's fifth-place ranking in the 1999-2000 World Cup giant slalom standings remains the highest by a Canadian female since Kathy Kreiner ranked fourth in 1977.

With files from the Canadian Press

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