After 207 World Cup starts and some 15 years on the tour, it’s time for Maria Pietilä Holmner to shift focus. New challenges lie ahead.
Maria’s break-through came at Åre 2007, where she was still young with no previous results to rely on. She was simply excited to race on home snow and took Anja Pärson’s advice to heart: just charge! Maria did and won World Championships silver in the giant slalom.
– I had no expectations from Åre 2007 and went home with a medal. That’s why my advice to the Swedish racers next year at Åre 2019 is just to enjoy the opportunity as much as possible! It makes a big difference to be able to cross the finish line before a home crowd. The Swedes know their skiing and cheer for all, which is great for us; the crowd plays an important support role, says Maria.
She had not planned to retire quite yet but had no choice when her body indicated it’s time.
– Of course, it was not easy to watch the ladies’ slalom at the Games when I had planned to stand at start myself. I wanted to retire at Åre 2019, but I will now participate in the championships in another way.
It is not yet clear what role Maria will play at Åre 2019, but she already knows she will be there, at least as a spectator and supporting her fiancée Hans Olsson.
– I received the ticket #1 for Åre 2019 so I will for sure be there as a fan and a proud local resident. That’s what I really like about this village; everyone is so proud to live here and contribute in their own way to ensure that everyone visiting will have a great time. It makes no difference whether as a volunteer, seasonal worker or restaurant owner.
The PyeongChang 2018 role as TV presenter gave Maria a chance to see ski sports from another perspective. But it may have come just a bit too early after her retirement for her to really make the best out of it.
– It was great to see everyone from my ski family with whom I’d shared the better part of the last 15 years. It was a nice experience and it felt good to see I could contribute with my ski expertise. I can imagine continuing to do that in the future to help promote alpine skiing and sport in general.
Maria debuted in the World Cup at Sölden, Austria at the age of 17. She is now transitioning to a different routine after concentrating on ski racing and delivering top performances for 15 years.
– I am looking forward to doing something different now. I had a great career with many successes. Sport is amazing and means so much more than results – it was a wonderful journey.
– The big difference is that I no longer need to perform, that weight is off my shoulders. Instead of having a daily routine, I can now fill my days with spontaneity!
Living in Åre, Maria and Hans will also be able to keep in touch with many ski racing friends. After the World Champs in 2019, the FIS Ski World Cup is scheduled to return to Åre both 2020 and 2021.
Maria is excited to explore and enjoy a different lifestyle.
– I have discovered that it is quite nice to just stay in pajamas all day. But I am not a person to just hang out, I already know that. That’s no surprise when you are used to having detailed daily schedule the last 15-16 years.
– If I could do anything I want, I would love to become an architect and design beautiful houses in mountain regions as well as travelling around the world with close to no luggage, just a bikini would be fine.
The wedding is planned for 2019, after the World Championships in Åre. And family planning is in the process as well, hopefully with two children in the next five years, says Maria and laughs.
– I love to live in Åre and would like my future children to have the chance to ski and lead an active lifestyle! But I also would not mind having a summer house in some warm land where we can flee when it is too cold and dark here…
Name: Maria Pietilä Holmner
Born: 25 July 1986
Residence: Åre, Sweden
Family: Father Tom Pietilä (from Finland), Elisabeth Holmner (from Sweden), Brother Johan Pietilä Holmner (27), Jenny Andrén (38)
Gold: Slalom at Junior World Championships in Québec 2006, parallel slalom European Youth Olympic Festival
Silver: Giant slalom at Åre 2007
Bronze: Slalom Garmisch-Partenkirchen 2011, Super-G at European Youth Olympic Festival
Silver: Schladming 2013
Bronze: Garmisch-Partenkirchen 2011, Vail/Beaver Creek 2015, St Moritz 2017
Latest news: Forced to retire due to injury in January 2018