Mikaela Shiffrin, thankful for lifeline of support, returns to Europe

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Mikaela Shiffrin, in a six-minute video expressing gratitude for overwhelming support since her father’s Feb. 2 death, said she’s flying to Europe for a possible return to ski racing.

“I have been able to ski and train a little bit over the last few weeks. It has been a slow process,” she said, sitting beneath a photo of her father, Jeff. “I have struggled with being able to maintain my focus as long as I normally can, but it has been therapeutic to be on the mountain, maybe even healing. I’ve found training to be a place where I can feel closer to my dad, yet it provides enough of a distraction so that feeling of closeness can be separated from the pain.

“As far as racing goes, I am flying to Scandinavia today. I have no promises if I’ll actually be able to race. I don’t really even have goals. Any time the topic of winning would come up in the conversation with my dad, he would always say, ‘But, did you make any good turns?’ That’s sort of the basis of our family’s entire philosophy. So, I guess, that would be my goal. I just want to make a few good turns. I think that would make him happy.”

The next World Cup races are a parallel slalom, giant slalom and slalom in Are, Sweden, from March 12-14. The following week are the World Cup Finals in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) is set to announce Friday whether the Finals will happen as scheduled amid coronavirus concerns. On Wednesday, the Italian government announced all sporting events in the country will take place without fans for at least the next month.

Shiffrin last raced Jan. 26, winning a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria.

“When I do return to competition, I just ask that you continue to respect my and my family’s privacy, especially as it relates to our heartbreak,” she said. “There is no doubt that we are broken, and it will take a long time to pick the pieces up and put them together. They won’t fit together as they did before, but, maybe like a piece of Kintsugi art, we will still be able to find beauty in our lives.”

During her February absence, Shiffrin went from leading the World Cup overall standings by 370 points to trailing Italian Federica Brignone by 153 points going into the last seven scheduled races.

Race winners receive 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher.

Shiffrin won the last three World Cup overall titles. This season’s crystal globe could still be at stake going into the World Cup Finals.

Shiffrin also trails Brignone by 93 points in the giant slalom standings with two GS races left and Slovakian Petra Vlhova by 20 points in the slalom race with two events left.

“I don’t know how to adequately describe the number of messages we have received, the most kind and heartwarming messages you could imagine, checking in on us, sharing quotes and poems, song lyrics or telling stories about my dad,” Shiffrin said. “Sometimes it feels like we are drowning in these messages, like we can’t keep up with the support and love that everyone has shown. Yet, in so many ways, it has also been our lifeline.”

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Over the last few weeks, my family and I have received an overwhelming amount of support and love. The most kind and heartwarming messages you could imagine, checking in on us, sharing quotes and poems, song-lyrics, and telling wonderful stories about my Dad. Sometimes it feels like we are drowning in these messages, like we can’t keep up with the support and love that everyone has shown, yet in so many ways it has also been our lifeline. We have not been able to respond to everything, but we want you all to know that we feel your love, and we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sharing it with us. Many have asked how we are doing, and where we are in the “grieving process”? The truth is, we haven’t really even started. Accepting this new “reality” is going to take a long time, and maybe we never truly will, maybe we don’t have to. Because we can still feel him here. In our hearts, in our thoughts, in the sky and mountains and snow. He made his mark, and he is here. Many have also asked about my return to skiing and racing. I have been able to train a little bit over the last few weeks. It has been a slow process, but it has been theraputic to be on the mountain. I’ve found training to be a place where I can feel closer to my dad, yet it provides enough of a distraction so that feeling of “closeness” can be separated from the pain. I am flying to Scandinavia today. I have no promises if I’ll actually be able to race when the time comes, and I don’t really even have goals. I just hope to make a few good turns. I think that would make my dad happy. If and when I do return to competition I’d ask that you continue to respect my privacy, especially as it relates to my family’s heartbreak. We are so thankful for the time we had with him—we cherish every single one of those moments—and we will keep him here in our hearts and our memories forever. 🤍

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Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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