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Paralympic alpine ski champion Mac Marcoux announces retirement

Mac Marcoux of Canada competes in the men's downhill, visually impaired, at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Jeongseon, South Korea, Saturday, March 10, 2018. Decorated para alpine ski champion Marcoux has announced his retirement, but he isn't done with sport.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Lee Jin-man

CALGARY — Decorated para alpine ski champion Mac Marcoux announced his retirement Wednesday, but he isn't done with sport.

The 26-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., won six Paralympic medals, including three gold, and five world titles in the visually impaired classification of alpine skiing. 

His guides included his brother Billie Joe followed by Robin Remy, Jack Leitch and Tristan Rodgers.

Marcoux took gold in four of his five races at the 2017 world championship. He won all eight World Cup races he entered in 2019-20.

He claimed downhill silver in Beijing's 2022 Paralympic Games despite missing months of training and racing because of knee surgery and a back injury. 

Marcoux crashed in Beijing's super-G and withdrew from the rest of the Paralympic Games with a re-injured back. 

"We're at the point in my career where my body's not holding up the way it used to and starting to have some more long-lasting effects with the back-injury stuff," Marcoux said. "It's time for me to kind of focus on the rest of my life and hopefully be able to put my socks on for the foreseeable future.

"It's been a pretty incredible run over the last 12 years. The community that ski racing has created for me . . . it's humbling to look back and realize how big a part of your life ski racing was and even though I'm not competing, I still have such a big community within the sport."

Marcoux, who began skiing at age four, starting losing his eyesight to Stargardt macular degeneration at nine. He was eventually left with six per cent vision. His brother Billie Joe began guiding him in ski racing in 2011.

“When Mac and BJ burst onto the scene they were barely teenagers,” Alpine Canada high-performance director Matt Hallat said in a statement.

“They were just two kids having fun and skiing fast, and I’m grateful to have witnessed that Mac never lost these two characteristics. There will never be another person like him and he leaves a great legacy for those behind him to chase." 

Marcoux continues to ski and snowmobile in the back country. He wants to educate outdoor companies and guides on accessibility for the visually impaired, for people using sit skis and for people with other disabilities. 

He produced a short film of him sledding and skiing in remote mountains as part of his pitch. 

"When you tell people that you're legally blind, they're immediately thinking of white canes and guide dogs and not the kinds of things we're getting into every day," Marcoux said. 

"The whole idea behind showcasing this is just to get more people excited about going outside and and pursuing passions that maybe don't necessarily fall under the Paralympic umbrella. They're just looking for some insight on how we can make things work in a productive, safe manner for especially all these sports that don't really have an avenue for athletes with disabilities yet."

Marcoux also contributed to his former guide Rodgers' book "More Than Meets The Eye." 

The duo was the first vision-impaired team to tackle three difficult freeski routes called The Coffin, Excitation and Kaleidoscope at B.C.'s Whistler-Blackcomb. Their efforts were chronicled in a documentary film "Blind Faith."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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