Walking away with honor

Libby Ludlow wants you to know she’s happy.

Libby Ludlow retires after 10 years with the U.S. Ski Team

Libby Ludlow wants you to know she’s happy.

Happy with her decision to walk away from the sport she’s been a part of since she was old enough to walk, happy with the decision to retire with her health, happy to say goodbye to a lifestyle that led her around the globe.

Most of all, she wants you to know she knew when it was time to hang it up, to walk away with her honor.

Last month Ludlow, a Bellevue native, announced her retirement from the U.S. Ski Team and competitive downhill skiing after 10 years with the team. A strong sense of accomplishment and a series of past injuries persuaded a now-healthy Ludlow to decide to retire healthy and happy.

“To be able to walk away on my own terms is huge,” Ludlow said from Hanover, N.H., where she is attending classes full-time at Dartmouth College. “I’m a multi-dimensional individual and I’m ready to explore other facets of my life. It just really became clear to me it was time to be finished.”

Ludlow, 26, jumped on skis for the first time when she was just 2-years-old, and was quickly following her two older brothers up and down the hills at Crystal Mountain. A stand-out multi-sport athlete at Interlake High School, Ludlow was a midfielder for the girls soccer team and a state pole-vault champion for the Saints.

At 16, she joined the U.S. Ski Team.

“I’ve always said that my love of ski racing stems from my love of skiing in general,” Ludlow said. “I always loved just being out on the mountain. Plus, I get to go really, really fast in a beautiful environment.”

Over the course of her career there have been numerous highlights – the 2004 giant slalom national crown, three top-10 finishes in the World Cup, 45 top-30 finishes, but one stands above all others. That would be her participation in the Turin Olympics.

“I achieved my dream and simply getting to compete in that environment on the world stage was memorable,” Ludlow said. “At the opening ceremonies, there was definitely a moment of ‘wow, I can’t believe I’m here.’”

After the fourth knee surgery last season, Ludlow rehabbed relentlessly and posted eight top-30 finishes in three events. After proving to herself yet again she could still race, Ludlow decided it was time to walk away, noting the honor in leaving with your health-and pride-intact, despite her goal to ski in the upcoming Vancouver Olympics.

“Ultimately it came down to me recognizing the honor of knowing when to stop,” she said. “Walking away before [the Olympics] is a big deal. There are not many goals I will walk away from, but it was clear to me that there are more important things. I consider it an honorable decision.”

Ludlow will return to the Northwest this summer to take classes at the University of Washington before returning to Dartmouth next fall to complete her degree in philosophy modified by Eastern religion. Once her degree is completed, Ludlow intends to return to the area and pursue a yoga teaching certification, a passion of hers for nearly as long as ski racing.

Most of all, Ludlow looks forward to taking the winter quarter off to ski with her family – no races, no competing, just enjoying the sport.

“This is a huge life change for me and it will take some getting used to,” Ludlow said. “Honestly, I’m really excited for this new chapter in my life.”

Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-4270 ext. 5060 or at jwillits@reporternewspapers.com.