Manfred Moelgg savored the moment under the lights in Flachau, his final race after nearly two decades on the World Cup circuit.
Starting bib No. 32, the 39-year-old Italian descended the Flachau slalom course, progressively taking it easier, slower and steadier, as he linked his final turns at a World Cup race. Moelgg approached the bottom of the 68-gate set, relishing the occasion, stopping just before the finish, clicking out of his right ski and walking across the line.
It was an emotional farewell for the 2008 slalom World Cup champion, shared alongside his fellow racers, all culminating in a jam-packed finish area at the Austrian resort on a clear and chilly night. Friends and family made the trip to witness Moelgg’s farewell race, as Flachau is located about 200-kilometers northeast of his home of Brunico in the Italian South Tyrol.
Shortly after he crossed the finish, many of his fellow racers, attired in T-shirts reading: “Danke, Grazie, Lolan,” circled around him and doused him with champagne, before handing him a bottle.
All smiles, Moelgg removed his helmet, dropped to his knees and kissed the snow, then kissed his Fischer skis emblazoned with the words ‘Manny – Danke – Grazie’ written across the bottoms, and finally applauded the cheering crowd in bleachers and strewn around the Flachau finish area.
Moelgg briefly sat in the finish area leader’s chair one final time and addressed the enraptured crowd by microphone.
“Hi Flachau – it is not easy to find the words. Those years were beautiful and long, so it is time to go. Thank you everyone, my colleagues and all the fans,” Moelgg said.
Moelgg’s mother was seen among the crowd, in tears, as adjacent fans held up a banner reading ‘Grazie Manfred.’
Not significant by any means, but Moelgg’s time of 58.87 was 5.29 seconds slower than first-run leader and Olympic slalom silver medalist Johannes Strolz.
For Moelgg, it was his 329th and final World Cup race, his first coming in Bormio, a slalom contested in January 2003.
Tributes poured in from fellow racers, past and present, across social media. His Italian teammates addressed him by his nickname, “The Captain.”
Dominik Paris wrote on Instagram: “Grazie Capitano, you inspired me to make it to the top and you’ve always been a great person helping younger skiers. Grazie amico @manfredmoelgg all the best for the future.”
Croatian Ivica Kostelic, who battled head-to-head with Moelgg on the slalom hill across many seasons wrote: “Grande Manni! There are many qualities in you that make you such a great, exemplary sportsman that can’t fit the text or emotion. Being your adversary and your friend has always been and will be a great privilege.”
In his own Instagram post earlier in the day, Moelgg wrote: “I write these lines with a strange feeling but still with a smile. They were fantastic years in which I could do what I love since I was a child! It’s hard for me to describe my feelings right now and those that are yet to come.”
Over the course of his longstanding career, spanning 19 seasons, Moelgg achieved three World Cup slalom victories – Kranjska Gora, March 2008; Garmisch-Partenkirchen, February 2009; and Zagreb, January 2017. He also stood atop 20 World Cup podiums (16 slalom, 3 giant slalom and 1 super combined).
In 2008, Moelgg raced to his one and only World Cup discipline title, a season in which he tallied 531 slalom points, edging Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Grange by a narrow 19-point margin. With seven World Cup podiums that season, the Italian racer also finished fourth in the overall World Cup standings. It was the best result by an Italian since Kristian Ghedina, who was also fourth in 2000.
Moelgg flourished with timely racing at world championships, skiing to one slalom silver medal (Are 2007), one slalom bronze (Garmisch-Partenkirchen 2011) and a surprising giant slalom bronze (Schladming 2013).
However, the Italian racer struggled at four Olympic Games, his first in Torino 2006 and last in PyeongChang 2018. Moelgg suffered DNFs in five of nine Olympic races. His best result was a seventh in slalom at Whistler-Creekside, Canada, in 2010.
Moelgg’s second best season came nine years after he raised his only World Cup slalom globe in 2017. In a resurgence and return to form, Moelgg was third in the season slalom standings, albeit a substantial 259 points off the pace of winner Marcel Hirscher.
He competed alongside his younger sister Manuela for 16 seasons. Manuela, who retired after PyeongChang 2018, attained 14 World Cup podiums, but never won a race. The Italian brother and sister racers were a well-respected and popular tandem during their numerous years on tour.
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