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World champion aerialist Warren Shouldice retires at 29

07/23/2012 12:54 EDT | Updated 09/22/2012 05:12 EDT
Reigning world aerials champion Warren Shouldice is retiring, choosing to hang up his skis and not return from a concussion that wiped out his 2012 season.

The two-time Olympian from Calgary leaves the sport having reached the podium 12 times in 61 FIS World Cup starts.

“After getting injured in 2012 and taking some time off, I found that I really enjoyed my time at home,” the 29-year-old Shouldice said in a statement released by the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association on Monday.

“I went to school and realized that I am ready to start the next chapter of my life. I’m really excited about getting an education, getting a job and moving forward.”

Shouldice said he had thought about retirement since the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games but believed he had a little more to give to the sport.

He took this past season off to heal after suffering a concussion in pre-season training. He won the men's aerials competition in Calgary last year in addition to his first world title, the highlight of Shouldice's career.

At that event in Deer Valley, Utah, Shouldice prevailed after he stood seventh following his first jump. He claimed victory after putting down a perfect lay, triple full, full, Shouldice's signature trick that featured a quadruple twisting triple backflip with three twists on the second flip.

"That was three seconds that will last a lifetime," he said. "To do that jump, that's basically mine, under those circumstances, under the pressure, and to get a perfect score … it was a dream come true.

"I have such profound respect for that trick. It's such a hard jump to do well, let alone perfectly."

Handled adversity well

According to the CFSA, Shouldice will be remembered as an incredible athlete with a knack for rebounding from adversity.

In 2002, a 19-year-old Shouldice broke his neck in a fluke accident during summer water ramp training, but returned to competitive aerials a few months later in his first World Cup event.

At a World Cup event in Quebec in 2009 he suffered a concussion and crushed vertebrae after crashing badly on the trick jump. But there he was six weeks later at the world competition in Japan winning a bronze medal.

In Vancouver, Shouldice recorded the highest score of the aerial competition with his signature jump, but didn't fare as well on his other jump and placed 10th.

Shouldice was known as "Wookie" to his coaches and teammates, whom he praised in his retirement announcement.

"Wookie was one of those athletes who was not only a marquee performer, but he developed into a real team leader," said CFSA chief executive officer Peter Judge. "That's the beauty of being involved with an athlete from the time they're an adolescent, you really see an evolution and with Wookie it was profound."

Shouldice thanked his parents and teammates, and signalled out Canadian aerial coach Dennis Capicik.

"He's been working with me my entire career," said Shouldice. "And I can promise you that I never, ever, ever would have made it this far, or even made it period, without him. He's the sole reason that I became an Olympic and a world champion."

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