Photos provided by Innerhofer
The 37-year-old veteran racer recently underwent post-season surgery to repair a ruptured meniscus. He is now pain-free, preparing for off-season training and looking forward to his 17th season on tour.
An ancient Italian proverb states, “La calma è la virtù dei forti” and translates to “calm is the virtue of the strong.” This strength of character certainly applies to veteran Italian ski racer Christof Innerhofer in the face of his recent challenges.
Turning 38 next season, Innerhofer informs us that he has no intention of slowing down or hanging up his racing skis after 16 seasons on the World Cup tour.
Innerhofer is recovering well from a recent knee injury after a somewhat unexpected but required surgery. In mid-March, the 37-year-old racer began experiencing persistent pain in his left knee following a crash in Kvitfjell, Norway, yet he still raced at the World Cup Finals in France. Then he competed in the Italian national championships. He won the super-G and then attained another victory at the grueling, six-kilometer, all-comers Gardenissima race in Val Gardena.
“I could hardly walk, but I still I tried to race – for five weeks, I could not push down into the binding by myself, so imagine how tough that was,” Innerhofer tells Ski Racing Media.
Still, despite the pain, Innerhofer pushed onward, refusing to end his season.
“At Finals in Courchevel, I was third in training, but in the race, the (snow) conditions worsened and I was no longer able to ski because my knee felt so bad,” he admitted.
As the pain persisted, Innerhofer once again consulted with doctors. He received an MRI and learned that he needed to undergo surgery immediately to repair a ruptured meniscus that was irritating the knee. Innerhofer had the necessary procedure performed on May 6th in Innsbruck.
Innerhofer, who is currently vacationing in Greece, says he has recently returned to his road bike, two sessions a day, incrementally increasing distance and intensity. He’s also taking precautions not to re-aggravate the injury.
“The training will be a little more each week, but I will pay careful attention and still avoid doing heavy things for the next two to three weeks,” Innerhofer said. “I have to be patient until it is 100%, after six to eight weeks at the end of June.”
Confident about his recovery, he is already looking ahead to training camps in Zermatt in August and Argentina and Chile in September.
However, given his recent physical setbacks, the veteran athlete from Italy’s South Tyrol region is coming off a tough season. He skied off course in both the Beijing Olympic downhill and super-G. He finished 20th in the World Cup downhill standings and his best results were eighth in the Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen and ninth at the Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuhel.
Still, driven by his unwavering passion, persistence, and desire to continue to do what he loves, Innerhofer remains bullish about next season.
“If I were not confident, then I’d say that I’m done, but I still love what I do and I’m lucky that I’m so crazy for sport and this keeps me young,” Innerhofer says passionately.
“I don’t feel like I’m 37 years old, and I’m confident that I will be in great shape because I love to train,” he adds.
The Italian ski racing “Iron Man” has amassed 293 career World Cup starts, second only to Alexis Pinturault among its active racers. It is an average of 18 races per season. Johan Clarey (41) and Steven Nyman (40) may be older, but both have substantially fewer starts and have lacked the consistency that Innerhofer has shown.
“What keeps me going is my passion for the sport – I love to race, the competition, and the adrenaline. And when I lose, I try again and come back better,” says Innerhofer, questioned about his longevity in a sport that produces knee injuries like Italy makes pasta.
“I realize that I may be getting close to retirement, but I can’t imagine living without racing,” the Italian skier adds. “I still love to compete with the young guys.”
Innerhofer’s World Cup debut came in December 2006, in slalom in Levi, Finland. In addition to his four Olympic Games, Innerhofer has also competed in seven world championships. His most noteworthy at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 2011, he charged to three medals, one in every color.
Like most ski racers, Innerhofer has dealt with his fair share of injuries. The injuries include roughly four years of back problems, but he has never been sidelined for long. He only missed one world championship in St. Moritz 2017, unable to compete due to a broken fibula.
Milan-Cortina Olympic Winter Games 2026?
Innerhofer will undoubtedly be inundated with questions from the Italian media about whether he can stick around long enough to race on home snow at the Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympic Winter Games. The men’s speed events will be contested in Bormio, on the notoriously unforgiving Stelvio track – a track where Innerhofer captured his first World Cup victory in December 2008 and his most recent podium, a runner-up finish to Italian teammate Dominik Paris in 2018.
“It was my dream to win in Bormio. I was the first Italian to win there, so it will always be a special place for me,” Innerhofer says.
“I wish I could tell you that I will be there in Milano-Cortina 2026, but I have to look at things from year to year,” he says. “If things are still going okay or great by that time, I will be there.”
“This year, I signed new contracts with my sponsors for four more years – my sponsors still believe in me and that’s nice. I have all the possibilities to go on with my races.”
Innerhofer appears to be aging like a fine Italian wine. However, it remains to be seen whether there will be one final toast in the Italian Dolomites at the 2026 games. Reflecting upon a career in which he won six World Cup races and stood atop 18 podiums, he quickly points out that his best career moments came at the Sochi 2014 Olympics. He narrowly missed downhill gold, claiming silver as runner-up to Matthias Mayer by 0.06 seconds. Five days later, he added a second medal, claiming bronze in the super-combined.
To bid arrivederci and conclude his career on a high note in his beloved Bormio while once again relishing the Olympic spotlight in front of friends and family certainly seems too tempting an antipasto to pass up.
“Me, (Matteo) Marsaglia and Dominik may be a little old for the Olympic Games in Cortina, but maybe, with our experience, it will be possible and I hope I will be one of these guys.”
Follow Brian on Twitter – @Brian_Pinelli
Leave a Reply