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Austrian skiing great Hirscher plans comeback, for Netherlands

Austria's Marcel Hirscher cheers during the award ceremony of the giant slalom competition at the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Record World Cup and world champion Marcel Hirscher appears set for a stunning comeback to alpine skiing, for the Netherlands in a switch from Austria. Stephan Jansen/dpa

Record World Cup and world champion Marcel Hirscher appears set for a stunning comeback to alpine skiing, for the Netherlands in a switch from Austria.

The Austrian Ski Federation (ÖSV) said on Wednesday it had granted Hirscher's request to try and compete for the birth country of his mother in the future.

"Over the last few days talks have taken place with various parties in which we have been informed that Marcel Hirscher can imagine returning to the international ski circuit," ÖSV secretary general Christian Scherer said.

"As the Austrian Ski Association, we have of course made every effort to offer Marcel the best possible and individual framework conditions in the event of a return to alpine racing and have also been able to explain these to him in a personal exchange.

"Of course, we very much regret his decision to apply for a change of nation to the Dutch Ski Association but in the end we also supported it. Marcel has achieved enormous things for skiing and for the ÖSV."

The ÖSV said that it has already put together the necessary release letter, with a decision to be made by the leadership of the ruling body FIS at its next meeting.

Hirscher is to return at second-tier FIS races, with a World Cup return deemed unrealistic for the time being, according to Anton Giger, racing chief of Van Deer, a ski manufacturer founded by Hirscher.

Hirscher, 35, ruled alpine skiing until his retirement in 2019, winning a record eight overall World Cups, 12 discipline titles, 67 races, and managing 138 podiums.

He is the most successful male skier at world championships with seven golds and four silvers, and has two Olympic golds and a silver.

There was no immediate statement from Hirscher or the Dutch federation NSV.

The Netherlands are not a major ski nation, and according to FIS statistics have two top-10 placings in the 57-year World Cup history.

The news comes a few weeks of Norway's Lucas Pinheiro Braathen said he aimed to return and compete for Brazil, the birth country of his mother. The 24-year-old had retired in autumn over a dispute with the Norwegian ski federation.