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Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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May 6, 2008 10:02 AM

Bellevue ski racer Libby Ludlow moves on

Posted by Ron Judd

A few months ago, up at Whistler, you could see it in her face. Not defeat. Just fatigue. Bellevue's Libby Ludlow, a ski racer almost her entire life, was fighting to recover from microfracture surgery -- another in a long series of painful injury rehabs in pursuit of a dream: Skiing in the Olympics on a mountain range in the Northwest, a day's drive from home.

It wasn't to be. Ludlow, 26, announced her retirement this morning, after 10 years on the U.S. Ski Team.

"The fact that I am healthy right now and can walk away from the sport healthy, happy and satisfied with what I've accomplished is what I've always wanted. It feels really good," Ludlow told U.S. Skiing. "It was clear that now is my time to walk away. I feel really good about my career and I am excited about what lies ahead."

Ski racers who get the need for speed in their system often find it difficult to do what Ludlow is doing -- pull the plug before it has to be done from one of those ski-patrol body sleds. As it is, Ludlow has enough physical scars from her career to serve as reminders for the rest of her life. So cutting the losses is an investment in what surely will be a bright future, away from icy mountainsides.

The sport also appeared ready to exact an even greater toll on Ludlow: She said earlier this year that changes in the U.S. Ski Team's ranking system might mean she would lose her funding to compete on the World Cup next year as she struggled to get healthy.

She leaves with a career of which she can be proud: Ludlow skied in the Turin Olympics, won the 2004 giant slalom national crown, and posted 45 top-30 World Cup finishes, three of them top 10s. She also skied on the 2003 and 2007 World Championships teams. She was ranked 10th in the world in super G at the dawn of the 2007 racing season.

She also was a talented athlete off the slopes. Ludlow was a soccer midfielder and won a state girl's pole-vaulting title at Interlake High School, where she graduated first in her class.

Ludlow, who began skiing at age 2 at Crystal Mountain, and racing with Crystal Mountain Alpine Club at 6, said she will take a year to finish her undergraduate degree -- in philosophy modified by Eastern religion -- at Dartmouth, then work toward certification as a yoga instructor.

"I've been doing yoga for 11 years, and it's something I plan to use to transition into the real world," she says.

Ludlow is one of those determined athletes that makes covering Olympic sports inspiring. Tens of thousands of them are out there every day, putting life and limb literally at risk, for pure love of their sport. Only a handful ever reach the level of a medal podium, and the (brief) fame and sponsorship money that comes with it. The rest of them work hard, enjoy the little rewards along the way, and then move on -- in the best cases, without the assistance of crutches.

So here's to Libby Ludlow, one of the hardest of hard chargers. She left a lot of herself out there on a lot of different mountains -- but still possessed the good sense to know when to hop off.

(Photo: U.S. Ski Team)

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Blogroll and links The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information. Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
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Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site. Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription). News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions. Beijing Organizing Committee Web site. Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site. London 2012 Summer Games site. Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site. Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
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