Mikaela Shiffrin

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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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Mikaela Shiffrin’s sentimental return wiped out by cancellation

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Early Wednesday, Mikaela Shiffrin confirmed plans to return to competition this weekend in Åre, Sweden.

Later in the day, World Cup organizers canceled that competition, spoiling her plans to race at a venue that held sentimental value for the Shiffrin family.

READ: Final World Cup races canceled

Shiffrin had not raced since Jan. 26, when she won a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria. She also finished first and fourth in two downhill races that weekend.

She left Europe and headed home after her father, Jeff Shiffrin, died suddenly in early February. This weekend’s venue held special significance for her.

“I have some wonderful memories here with my Dad during the World Cup Finals and World Champs, so I’ve been looking forward to returning for these races,” Shiffrin said in her Twitter announcement.

Last year, Shiffrin won the slalom and super-G world championships and took third in the giant slalom in Åre. She also won the slalom in Åre at the 2018 World Cup finals, where she was officially awarded the crystal globes for her overall and slalom season titles, and she won there in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

READ: Shiffrin goes to Europe, thanks fans and ski community for support

Shiffrin had a slim chance of defending her World Cup overall title and a good chance of retaining her slalom title despite slipping into second place in both standings during her absence, but that quest seemed secondary under the circumstances.

“I still have no real goals or expectations,” Shiffrin said in a social media announcement. “I just would like to try to race again before the end of the season.”

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

Shiffrin said she would limit her interactions to give herself some privacy and be mindful of the spread of coronavirus. She would not be giving “selfies, autographs, hugs, high fives, handshakes or kiss greetings,” and she would give few or maybe even no interviews. A few hours later, organizers said the races would go on without spectators, only to change course again and cancel the races outright.

Federica Brignone of Italy will take the overall title. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova will win the slalom title.

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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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