Mikaela Shiffrin’s return unknown after MCL tear

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Over the next few weeks, Mikaela Shiffrin will slalom between rest and rehab.

Usually so fast on a race course, the Olympic and World slalom champion is taking things at a conservative pace as she recovers from a torn knee ligament and painful bone bruise. There’s no timetable for her return to skiing, either.

But there is some promising news: She won’t need surgery. Just rest and rehab. Lots and lots of it after tearing the medial collateral ligament in her right knee during a wipeout while preparing for a giant slalom last Saturday in Are, Sweden.

”It’s nice for me to know that, as far as everyone’s said, I’ll be able to ski before the snow melts,” Shiffrin said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. ”Getting back to racing is another story. It’s tough to make any sort of predictions about when I’ll be able to race again.

”If I don’t feel like I can get in the starting gate of a race and attack the hill, I’m not going to.”

There’s a possibility the skier from Eagle-Vail, Colo., could return to the slopes for the World Cup Finals in March. Now that would be quite a birthday present for Shiffrin, who turns 21 on March 13.

”You can only take it week by week first, and then day by day,” Shiffrin’s manager, Kilian Albrecht, said. ”Obviously, there is hope that she can return as the season is still pretty long. But unfortunately all of the tech races are now, which is not good as she will for sure miss a lot of the races.”

Shiffrin was hurt when she crashed during a free skiing session on the competition hill. She said she was making a right-footed turn when she hit a patch of icy snow. Her right ski slipped and then her knee buckled, before hitting some grippy snow that caused her to hyperextend her knee and skid into the protective netting.

As her coaches untangled her, Shiffrin feared the worst.

”I was like, ‘I have to get up, and ski down,”’ she said. ”That was my first thought in the first 10 seconds when I got untangled. But I was sitting there on the side of the hill and there was no way I was even walking. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell what.”

She flew back to Colorado for more tests on her knee, which confirmed she had a bone bruise and MCL tear.

”I’m lucky that I don’t need surgery and I’m lucky that there are no other implications,” Shiffrin said. ”It could’ve been really bad. You know Lindsey Vonn‘s knee injuries and how long it took her to come back, and countless other athletes. They all come back, but it takes a solid two years. I’m not looking at a timeline like that at all.”

She was considered the top contender to Vonn in the World Cup overall race, especially with Tina Maze taking the season off and defending champ Anna Fenninger sidelined with a knee injury.

That’s all but vanished for Shiffrin.

”It’s pretty heartbreaking because I think everybody in the back of their minds, including me, was thinking a 20-year-old being able to battle it out probably with Lindsey Vonn for the overall — how that’s pretty spectacular, no matter who comes out on top,” said Shiffrin, who won the slalom at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and at the last two World Championships. ”That’s how it was looking until this happened. It’s definitely a bummer.”

Shiffrin was in the midst of a stellar start, winning the opening two slaloms this season in Aspen by staggering margins, including one by 3.07 seconds, the largest margin of victory for the women’s discipline in World Cup history. She also made her speed debut in Lake Louise, Alberta, this month and finished a respectable 15th during a super-G race won by Vonn.

While sidelined, Shiffrin said she plans to take some online classes in personal finance – ”I’d like to know a little more about investing,” she said – and improve her guitar playing. She also will go through rehab three times a day, even posting a video on social media Tuesday of her pedaling on a stationary bike while wearing a brace.

”I’m pretty positive right now. I’m not in any pain or anything,” Shiffrin said. ”I don’t have a lot of swelling, so that’s all a good sign. That makes me positive.”

MORE: Vonn wins 71st World Cup race after Shiffrin injury

U.S. Alpine skiers wear climate change-themed race suits at world championships

U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit
Images via Kappa
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Looking cool is just the tip of the iceberg for Mikaela Shiffrin, Travis Ganong and the rest of the U.S. ski team when they debut new race suits at the world championships.

Even more, they want everyone thinking about climate change.

The team’s predominantly blue-and-white suits depict an image of ice chunks floating in the ocean. It’s a concept based on a satellite photo of icebergs breaking due to high temperatures. The suit was designed in collaboration with Kappa, the team’s technical apparel sponsor, and the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters (POW).

The Americans will wear the suits throughout the world championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France, which started Monday with a women’s Alpine combined race and end Feb. 19.

“Although a race suit is not solving climate change, it is a move to continue the conversation and show that U.S Ski & Snowboard and its athletes are committed to being a part of the future,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

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Global warming has become a cold, hard reality in ski racing, with mild temperatures and a lack of snow leading to the postponement of several World Cup events this winter.

“I’m just worried about a future where there’s no more snow. And without snow, there’s no more skiing,” said Ganong, who grew up skiing at Lake Tahoe in California. “So this is very near and dear to me.”

What alarms Ganong is seeing the stark year-to-year changes to some of the World Cup circuit’s most storied venues.

“I mean, it’s just kind of scary, looking at how on the limit (these events) are even to being possible anymore,” said Ganong, who’s been on the U.S. team since 2006. “Places like Kitzbuehel (Austria), there’s so much history and there’s so much money involved with that event that they do whatever they can to host the event.

“But that brings up a whole other question about sustainability as well: Is that what we should be doing? … What kind of message do we need show to the public, to the world, about how our sport is adapting to this new world we live in?”

The suits feature a POW patch on the neck and the organization’s snowflake logo on the leg.

“By coming together, we can educate and mobilize our snowsports community to push for the clean energy technologies and policies that will most swiftly reduce emissions and protect the places we live and the lifestyles we love,” according to a statement from executive director Mario Molina, whose organization includes athletes, business leaders and scientists who are trying to protect places from climate change.

Ganong said a group of ski racers are releasing a letter to the International Ski Federation (FIS), with the hope the governing body will take a stronger stance on sustainability and climate change.

“They should be at the forefront of trying to adapt to this new world, and try to make it better, too,” Ganong said.

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U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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