Mikaela Shifrrin

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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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Federica Brignone hopes World Cup rival Mikaela Shiffrin will return soon

Shiffrin and Brignone
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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s prolonged absence from the World Cup Alpine skiing circuit has opened the door for Italy’s Federica Brignone to break the American’s grip on the season title, but Brignone hopes her friend and rival will be back in competition soon.

“I really do hope that she will return soon for herself so she can do again what she loves most,” Brignone said.

Brignone took the season lead from Shiffrin, who has won the last three World Cup overall titles, on Sunday and has a 73-point advantage with 11 of the season’s 40 races remaining. She also leads Shiffrin by 74 points in the giant slalom standings.

READ: Brignone moves into World Cup lead

No Italian woman has won the overall World Cup. Brignone was fifth in 2017 and won the Alpine combined discipline title last season.

Brignone will have a chance to clinch another Alpine combined discipline title and extend her overall lead in her home country this weekend. While some other sports events in Italy have been canceled or otherwise affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the host resort of La Thuile has so far been spared from the virus’ spread.

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, the only other skier with a realistic chance of winning the overall trophy, is dealing with a knee injury and might not be able to race this weekend. Vhlova leads Shiffrin by 20 points in the slalom standings.

Shiffrin has not competed since the death of her father Feb. 2, and she has not announced plans to return. She was not on pace to match her astounding 17-win 2018-19 season but still had six wins and had reached the podium in 13 of 19 races.

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