Final women’s Alpine World Cup races canceled, spoiling Mikaela Shiffrin’s planned return

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A few hours after Mikaela Shiffrin announced plans to return to the Alpine skiing World Cup for its final weekend, international organizers canceled the races, giving Italy’s Federica Brignone the season title that Shiffrin had held for three years.

Shiffrin had confirmed early Wednesday morning that she would return for the final weekend, saying the venue of Åre, Sweden, was a place where she and her father, whose sudden death prompted Shiffrin to leave the World Cup circuit, had good memories together.

READ: Shiffrin had planned sentimental return

Later in the day, the international ski federation (FIS) announced plans to hold the races without spectators, largely rendering moot Shiffrin’s statement that she would limit interactions with fans and media to maintain her privacy and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Shortly thereafter, FIS announced that the races wouldn’t be held at all.

“We are so sorry that we have to cancel the competitions that we have prepared for for so long,” said World Cup manager Fredrik Broman. “The current situation give us no other option than to cancel.”

A tweet from the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team said the races had been canceled “after new recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Sweden.”

Brignone held the World Cup lead by 153 points. With each race offering 100 points to the winner and three races on the weekend schedule, Shiffrin still had a slim chance of winning the season title for a fourth straight year. Instead, Shiffrin will finish second despite not racing since Jan. 26.

READ: Brignone passes Shiffrin for overall lead

Shiffrin had a much better chance of taking the slalom season title for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in eight years, trailing Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova by just 20 points with two races scheduled for the weekend.

The World Cup Finals, scheduled for next week in Italy, had already been canceled due to coronavirus concerns in Italy.

The 2019-20 season was never likely to be a repeat of Shiffrin’s previous year, when she set a World Cup record with 17 wins in 26 races and won the overall season title by 849 points. She also won the slalom title by a wide margin and took the crystal globes in giant slalom and super-G. In the world championships, she won the slalom and super-G, along with a third-place finish in the giant slalom.

This season, she was especially vulnerable in giant slalom, winning just once in five races. She took a short break to reset, then returned to win two races in her first weekend back. In January, she had two wins and five podium finishes in eight races, leaving herself poised to win the overall title again.

Brignone’s previous best in the World Cup season standings was fifth in 2016-17, the same year she finished fourth in the downhill standings for the second straight year. She won the Alpine combined season title last season and defended it this year with two wins. With five wins in all disciplines this season, she took her career win total to 15.

She said in late February that she hoped her friend would return to action shortly, even if it threatened her chances to win the overall title.

Vlhova, second in the overall standings last season, was the only skier in striking distance of Brignone and Shiffrin this year. Her slalom season title is her first in any discipline.

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