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Mikaela Shiffrin skips World Cup speed races in Switzerland

Mikaela Shiffrin will not be competing in speed events this weekend in St. Moritz, Switzerland, she announced on Tuesday.

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Mikaela Shiffrin will skip World Cup races in Switzerland this weekend after missing training time in speed events during the coronavirus pandemic, the United States ski team said Tuesday.

The three-time overall World Cup champion opted out of two super-G races scheduled for St. Moritz, where she won two years ago.

Shiffrin is now preparing for two giant slaloms on Dec. 12-13 in Courchevel, France.

“Due to travel restrictions associated with COVID-19, opportunities for training speed this summer were non-existent for Americans,” the team said in a statement.

Shiffrin has not trained since January for downhill or super-G, the team said. She has six of her 66 career World Cup race wins in speed disciplines, with 59 coming in the technical events of slalom or giant slalom.

Shiffrin also has been limited by a back injury this season. She placed second and fifth in a pair of slaloms in Levi, Finland — both won by World Cup leader Petra Vlhova.

 

Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States looks back as she crosses the finish line of the second run of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup women's slalom race at the Levi ski resort in Kittila, Finnish Lapland, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via AP)

French COVID-19 lockdown puts World Cup season in doubt

We start by saying that a month is a lifetime in the world of coronavirus. We’ve learned that much since March.

One month ago today was the first of what would be three presidential debates. I do not pick the first presidential debate to bring up politics, but just to say who would have thought that President Donald Trump would have tested positive for COVID-19 later that week and the ensuing tumult?

According to CNN, California and Nevada were loosening restrictions on gatherings. We had survived the summer surge. The NFL was warning its teams to “remain vigilant” with regard to the virus after the Tennessee Titans had positive tests. (How’d that work? Hint: Not well.)

Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, warned about a new wave of COVID cases with the winter approaching.

One month later, the president seems well out of danger with his health, a third wave seems to be spreading across the U.S., while France and Germany are also bracing for another outbreak. The former is locking down again, while the latter is limiting public gatherings.

We only bring this up because of the question, “What happens in another month?”

In a little more than a month, France is scheduled to host the first of four World Cup stops in December. Ironically, the first of those four are men’s giant-slalom races in Val d’Isere on Dec. 5-6, the weekend we usually host Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek.

The tour is meant to be in Val d’Isere three straight weekends in December — women’s and men’s speed races follow the GS races — while the women also have tech races in Courcheval.

What happens if France is still locked down?

Don’t go there

Well, we could revert to the original calendar and move those races right back to Lake Louise, Alberta, Killington, Vermont and Beaver Creek?

No, for several reasons.

The first is that COVID-19 is going strong on this side of the pond. No. 2, the European teams were happy to use COVID-19 as an excuse to make 2020-21 essentially a European tour this season. They hate having to fly over here. (European racers are still offended that Beaver Creek hosted the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.)

And then, there are the logistics. You can’t just reassemble World Cup events on a month’s notice. Yes, Beaver Creek and North American ski resorts are making snow, but it takes an army of people to run these races from parking attendants to forerunners to race crews to have a World Cup.

Not happening, people.

But what happens if Val d’Isere or Courcheval can’t host? Does the International Ski Federation (FIS) try to move eight races, not an insignificant portion of the schedule, somewhere else? Does FIS start canceling events? Is a World Cup season a season if there are only 20 events? (For your information, there are meant to be 38 events for the gents, 34 for the ladies and 11 at worlds.)

What if …

COVID spreads in Europe? All of the World Cup races in December and January are in France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Germany. We’re talking seven countries clustered together geographically.

In February, the worlds are in Cortina, Italy, in a country that has experienced considerable COVID-19 trauma already. A quick note here: Last summer, Cortina asked FIS to postpone the championships to 2022 after the Beijing Olympics. FIS said no.

Since I love trivia and am required to cite it: The 1995 worlds in Sierra Nevada, Spain, were the last time the event was moved — to 1996 — because of a lack of snow.

The bottom line is that we have no idea what this year’s World Cup season will look like. Will there be events in France? Will the worlds happen? Will there be the traditional stretch of Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbuehel, Austria, in January?

Let’s hope a lot can still happen in a month.

Lindsey Vonn opens up about Mikaela Shiffrin, other topics in YouTube interview airing this weekend

In an interview with YouTube journalist Graham Bensinger airing this weekend, Lindsey Vonn discusses a variety of topics, including her relationship with Mikaela Shiffrin as well as questioning the current ski racer for not taking as much of a leadership role on the U.S. Ski Team.

The website, Swnowbrains.com, posted clips of the interview from “In Depth with Graham Besinger,” where Vonn says that she doesn’t think that Shiffrin is the GOAT of skiing and that Shiffrin should take a more active role with the national team. The full interview comes out later this weekend.

In the clip posted, Bensinger starts with “Outside Magazine’s” article, published in November 2018 and repackaged on Feb. 2, 2019, just before that year’s FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are, Sweden. Bensinger claims that the magazine called Shiffrin “the greatest skier ever,” when the publication said that, “Mikaela Shiffrin’s only competition is Mikaela Shiffrin: The fastest woman on skis isn’t slowing down.”

Bensinger asks Vonn for her reaction and she replies, “She is the greatest slalom skier. That’s without question. But I think there’s a lot of sensationalism. The media does a lot. They take one thing and generalize it and it becomes totally different. That was at a time that I was still racing and still winning and it’s great for her, but I still feel like it was disrespectful to me. She’s not responsible for what other people write about her.”

For the record, Shiffrin has made no such claim to being the GOAT.

“It’s not that it bothers me,” Vonn continued in the Bensinger interview. “I felt like it wasn’t accurate and it’s not being honest. Say it — she’s the greatest slalom skier ever of all time. Just say that. It’s not that hard. Don’t make it something that it’s not.”

Vonn makes the point clear to Bensinger that she does not consider her relationship with Shiffrin “challenging,” but it’s also not the first time the two have seen things differently.

During the 2019 worlds, right after the Outside Magazine article was republished, Vonn expressed surprise at Shiffrin skipping the downhill and combined after winning the super-G to start the championships. Vonn said that she felt that Shiffrin could win all five races in Are.

Shiffrin ended up winning gold medals in both the super-G and slalom with a bronze in giant slalom, while Vonn wrapped her career with third in the downhill. Shiffrin replied that those races weren’t a part of her plan, saying, “My goal has never been to break records for most (World Cup) wins, points or most medals at world champs. My goal is to be a true contender every time I step into the start.”

It is not uncommon in the ski-racing world to draw comparisons to Vonn and Shiffrin. They are unquestionably the best two racers, regardless of gender, the United States has ever produced. Vonn has won 82 World Cups to Shiffrin’s 66. Shiffrin has the edge in worlds and Olympic medals.

However one compares them, the fact remains that they are vastly different people and athletes. Vonn is outgoing and never afraid to say what she thinks, whether it’s about ski racing, politics or any other subject. Shiffrin is more private, only opening up occasionally about personal subjects like her father’s passing earlier this year.

Athletically, Vonn’s a speedster and Shiffrin’s a tech specialist, though both have crossed over into each other’s strengths with success.

A candid assessment of who’s the GOAT is that Vonn is the greatest of all time now, having won 82 World Cups, while Shiffrin may take over that role if she surpasses Vonn. And we’re on safe ground saying that Vonn is the world’s best downhiller/speed racer, while Shiffrin is queen of making turns.

Vonn also spoke out with Bensinger about Shiffrin leading the U.S. Ski Team, whose depth is somewhat questionable. Vonn said that the two of them always had a cordial relationship when competing, but that Shiffrin might step up her role with the squad.

“You know, I repeatedly, you know, tried to, you know, we, we always help each other with our course reports and I think I just, uh, I don’t, we didn’t have a challenging relationship,” Vonn said. “She just, she had her own thing and she didn’t really wanna be involved or have my help or have anyone’s help for that matter …”

“I mean everyone has their own approach and hers is different from anyone else’s, and that’s why maybe she’s successful. Um, but I also think as a professional athlete and, you know, someone who’s the greatest of all time, it’s your responsibility to help others. Like you’re in a role that you could positively impact so many people and I don’t feel like that’s being utilized in the way that it could be.”

Mikaela Shiffrin gets 2020-21 World Cup slate

The International Ski Federation announced on Saturday that Saalbach, Austria, will host the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 2025.

Saalbach beat out Garmisch, Germany, and Crans Montana, Switzerland, and last hosted the championships in 1993. Austria will be hosting worlds for the first time in 12 years (Schladming, 2013), which is an eternity for the Land of Mountains.

This will be the ninth time Austria, the premier ski power in the world, is doing the honors since the event started in 1931.

The 2021 worlds are in Cortina, Italy, in February and Courchevel-Meribel, France, takes its turn in 2023. The United States has only hosted four times with Aspen in 1950 and Vail/Beaver Creek in 1989, 1999 and 2015.

Also on Saturday, FIS officially set its schedule for the 2020-21 World Cup season. While previously announced, there will be no North American stops due to COVID-19 on the tour. That includes the usual Birds of Prey men’s stop in Beaver Creek as well as visits to Lake Louise, Alberta, (men and women) and Killington, Vermont (women).

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Killington is a particular favorite of Mikaela Shiffrin. Not only are the races there the only on American snow, but she went to nearby Burke Academy.

After the traditional giant slalom opener in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 17, the season starts in earnest with a parallel event in Lech/Zurs, Austria (Nov. 13). On what would be Killington weekend, the ladies are in Levi, Finland, for two slaloms (Nov. 21-22).

The first speed of the year is now in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Dec. 5-6, when the ladies would usually be in Lake Louise and the men in Beaver Creek.

Fun with numbers

With the slate out, some observations:

  • Advantage tech racers: There are only 15 speed events and 19 tech races.
  • Shiffrin has won at every site hosting a World Cup giant slalom or slalom this season, except for Lech/Zurs, which has not hosted the circuit since December 1994. Shiffrin was born March 13, 1995.
  • Shiffrin has four World Cup wins each in Levi, Courchevel, Semmering, Austria, Zagreb, Croatia, and Maribor, Slovenia, all stops on the white circus this season. Madame also has won four times in Are, Sweden, thrice on the World Cup and once at worlds in 2019.
  • Speaking of words, Shiffrin has never competed in a World Cup tech event in Cortina. The Italian resort is traditionally a speed stop for the ladies. Nonetheless, Shiffrin won super-G there on Jan. 20, 2019. While her focus during the championships is usually GS and slalom (she’s won this discipline in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019), she should be set up to compete in speed, if she so chooses.
  • What about China? The women are scheduled to head out to Yanqing after worlds for a downhill and a super-G. This is relevant for Shiffrin because it’s the much-delayed test event for the 2022 Winter Olympics. While post-worlds is generally a bit of rest time for Shiffrin, this might be a go because she seems to like Olympic medals (gold in slalom in 2014 and a win in GS in 2018).
  • World Cup finals are in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. The last two times this course hosted finals in 2013 and 2014, some woman named Shiffrin won the slalom to close out the season.

Shiffrin, locals make U.S. squad for 2020-21

If Mikaela Shiffrin keeps at it, she just might make a career out of this skiing thing.

The queen of Alpine racing officially got re-invited to the U.S. Ski Team for the 2020-21 season, as the squad announced its roster for the upcoming campaign on Wednesday. This was obviously a no-drama moment for the three-time World Cup champion.

We’re forecasting that Shiffrin has a spot as long as she wants it, and probably after well after that. Wednesday was, however, a big day for some locals as Allie Resnick and Trent Pennington got their first invites to the team.

Resnick is a familiar name to the team. Emma, 17, was already on the development squad, and now here comes Allie, 18. Both sisters grew up here and went through Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Pennington, 17, is from Shalimar, Florida, and found his way to SSCV.

There is quite the local flavor on the squad at all levels. The B Team includes Bridger Gile, Kyle Negomir and River Radamus for the gents and Alice McKennis, Paula Moltzan and Nina O’Brien for the ladies. O’Brien is fresh off earning all-American honors in slalom at Montana State University.

Nicola Rountree-Williams, of Edwards, is a C Teamer. Jacob Dilling and Kellen Kinsella returned to the Devo Team.

Up on the A Team, there are no surprises. Travis Ganong, Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman are back. Tommy Ford’s there too after earning his first World Cup win at the Birds of Prey slalom here in December.

Shiffrin will be attempting a comeback season of sorts. Most racers would love to be trying “to rally” from a season with six World Cup wins. Of course, Shiffrin’s season was ultimately cut short by the death of her father, Jeff, on Feb. 2 and the onslaught of the COVID-19, which wiped out the final two stops of the tour in Are, Sweden, and Cortina, Italy.

Like the rest of the world of sports, the World Cup is waiting to see how the coronavirus situation evolves. The season traditionally opens in Soelden, Austria, with women’s and men’s giant slaloms in October.

Birds of Prey, the men’s stop at Beaver Creek, is theoretically set for Dec. 4-6. The FIS Alpine World Ski Championships are in Cortina Feb. 8-21, 2021.

Ski like Mikaela Shiffrin on your phone … maybe

Everyone is jonesing.

Vail and Beaver Creek are closed. The World Cup finals in Cortina, Italy, were meant to be happening this week. It seems like they were canceled a long time ago due to COVID-19 —in fact, it was just two weeks.

So ski on your phone.

Introducing the World Cup Ski Racing app. Your sports editor who hasn’t skied since … um … like, 2001 has clicked in on his phone. You can name yourself — Chris Shiffrin — and your nationality: Your sports editor is now on the U.S. Ski Team.

One swipes on the screen to turn. In our first few attempts, trying the giant slalom tutorial, my wanna-be Mikaela Shiffrin does not ski well. Shiffrin crashes into the A-netting three straight times. Sorry, Mikaela.

Maybe it’s the fact that in the game, Shiffrin is on Head skis, not her usual Atomics. (Upgrading your skis is an in-app purchase, and right now, it’s more of a case of operator error than the skis.)

Upon further review, the app is probably very realistic, as were your sports editor’s attempts to ski GS in Cortina — one can ski different World Cup sites courses. He might make one gate (maybe … probably not) and then be on an express trip into the netting.

We meet with little success as we continue our GS training. We’re really not concerning ourselves with turning at the actual gates, a quaint concept, but just trying to get down the hill. A few times, Shiffrin suffers the indignity of crashing into the ski lift. (So sorry, Mikaela.) There is a slight moment of triumph when we reach the first interval before crashing.

Baby steps, people.

I imagine that Mikaela skied better while she was still in the womb than I have been able to in this video game.

In all seriousness, if this is possible, Shiffrin has never raced World Cup tech events in Cortina, only downhill and super-G, getting a win in the latter on January 20, 2019.

By the way, the app gives only a few World Cup sites at a time. One of the upcoming events is at Lake Louise, Alberta, but there is no sign yet of Birds of Prey. It would be interesting to see how much the video courses are actually like the real ones. (I’m just saying I’ve covered a ton of races at Beaver Creek. Skied it? Are you nuts?)

So while we’re aware that Shiffrin is pretty darn good at those tech events — 59 of her 66 World Cup wins have come in some form of GS or slalom —— maybe she wants to race a speed event.

So we take it over to St. Moritz, Switzerland, for super-G thinking that less turning might help the uncoordinated Freud get Shiffrin down the hill.

The change in scenery and discipline does not help my Mikaela. “She” had some impressive crashes. My favorites were the faceplant into the netting, an impressive carom off skier’s right netting all the way across the course — a basketball couldn’t bounce like that — and numerous slides down the slope.

Really, with all the sliding she does, Shiffrin is going to be competing in the luge in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. Mercifully, Mikaela bounces up without a scratch. In all seriousness, I think I’ve torn her ACL around 1,200 times.

Because your sports editor is completely inept in hand-eye coordination — you should see him golf — Mikaela one time gets to the second interval staying upright for 51 seconds before meeting the all-too-constant result of the DNF.

We have established that Shiffrin is better at skiing than your sports editor — the cutting analysis you’ve come to expect from the Vail Daily — and doubtless better at video games, too.

Coronavirus fears end World Cup season, nixing Mikaela Shiffrin’s shot at a four-peat

Mikaela Shiffrin’s shot at a fourth World Cup overall title is finished after the International Ski Federation canceled this weekend’s women’s World Cup races in Are, Sweden, due to COVID-19 concerns. The races were canceled after new recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Sweden.

The announcement means that Italy’s Federica Brignone will claim the overall with 1,378 points, followed by Shiffrin (1,225) and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova in third with 1,189 points. Brignone is the first Italian woman to win the World Cup in the 53 years of the circuit.

“The health and welfare of the athletes and all other participants, as well as the general public are in the forefront and the priority of FIS and all stakeholders,” the FIS wrote on its website.

Concerns arose when a member of the sponsor support team at the FIS Alpine World Cup self-quarantined after experiencing symptoms of the Coronavirus in Kvitfjell, Norway. He later tested positive.

Other members of the support team traveled to Are and were quarantined immediately.

Shiffrin’s return for naught

Mikaela Shiffrin took to Twitter and Instagram on March 5 to announce she was returning to the World Cup circuit after a month-long absence following the death of her father.

“I have no promises if I’ll actually be able to race,” Shiffrin said in a six-minute video message that addressed the emotions about her father, Jeff, who died on Feb. 2. “There is no doubt that we are broken,” she said of her family’s grief. “Accepting this new ‘reality’ is going to take a long time, and maybe we never truly will, maybe we don’t have to.”

The three remaining races in Are were a scheduled parallel slalom, giant slalom, and slalom.

Shiffrin said she had trained a little but with difficulty.

“It has been a slow process, I have struggled with being able to maintain my focus,” said the two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time defending overall World Cup champion. “But it has been therapeutic 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.”

Mikaela Shiffrin picked up six World Cup wins in a trying season for her.
Marco Trovati | AP file photo

During her absence, Shiffrin lost her lead in the overall standings to Federica Brignone. In her specialist slalom discipline, Petra Vlhova now has a small lead.

Shiffrin last raced on Jan. 26 when she won a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria. The next weekend she returned to her family home in Vail to be with her father at the hospital.

In the video, Shiffrin read one of her father’s favorite poems, thanked the many well-wishers who have sent messages of support, and asked that her family’s privacy continues to be respected.

“Over the last few weeks, my family and I have received an overwhelming amount of support and love,” she said.

High expectations

The thought that Shiffrin could match or even come close to the success of her record-setting 2018-19 year was ludicrous and unattainable. There’s a reason everyone was agog after she set a record with 17 World Cup wins (Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider won 14 in 1988-89) while winning her third consecutive World Cup championship, as well as globes in slalom (her sixth in seven seasons), giant slalom (her first) and super-G (a rather unexpected championship).

Shiffrin scored 2,204 points on the World Cup. That’s second all-time — men or women — only to Slovenia’s Tina Maze’s blockbuster 2012-13 season (2,414). Adding in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are, where she won slalom and super-G and took bronze in GS, in February 2019, Shiffrin won 19 of her 29 starts, a wonderfully absurd percentage —65.5.

While stipulating that Shiffrin in a generational athletic treasure, a lot of things had to go right for her to accomplish as much as she did in 2018-19. The super-G globe from that year is a perfect example.

No season is complete without a reindeer, right? Mikaela Shiffrin says hello to her new reindeer, eventually named Ingemar, after winning the Levi, Finland, slalom in November.
Alessandro Trovati | AP

Shiffrin skied brilliantly in the discipline winning three times and finishing fourth at the World Cup finals. (Victories at worlds do not count toward World Cup points.)

She also got a break or two along the way. She took off two weeks from speed events in February 2019 and both of those stops were canceled due to weather. The rest of the field lost two chances to gain on an idle Shiffrin in super-G. Shiffrin beat Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer by 47 points (or just about half a race) for the title.

Because Shiffrin did not win in 2019-20 at the Herculean pace that she did in 2018-19, uneducated observers were wondering what was “wrong” with her.

“All I can say is- this season/this sport (my career)/this life is a marathon, not a sprint,” she tweeted, lending the proper perspective, in January.

Six victories

Speaking of perspective, it’s not like Shiffrin fell off the face of the earth by not maintaining her 2018-19 pace. She has won six times on tour this season, edging out rivals Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Italy’s Federica Brignone (five each) for most wins on the tour this winter.

Shiffrin still had days where she absolutely dominated — she won slaloms in Levi, Finland, by 1.79-seconds and in Killington, Vermont, by a whopping 2.29 seconds. Shiffrin topped the podium on back-to-back days in Lienz, Austria, in GS and slalom during December.

Keep in mind that she also managed to win in all four of the traditional disciplines in one season with downhill and super-G victories in Bansko, Bulgaria, at the end of January.

Mikaela Shiffrin reacts in the finish area of a women’s World Cup parallel giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy, on Jan. 19, 2020.
Italy Alpine Skiing World Cup

At the same time, there was bad luck, bad breaks and frustration. On Jan. 18 in Sestriere, Italy. Shiffrin finished 1-hundredth of a second off the pace in a GS. She finished third as Brignone and Vlhova tied for the win.

The next day, Shiffrin was the victim of a bad course set in parallel slalom, finishing ninth. Shiffrin was tactful as always, but when one course set produces 17 winners and the other three in 20 head-to-head matches, something’s wrong.

Some days, Shiffrin just wasn’t in the groove, as was the case when she finished 17th in a GS in Courchevel, France, in December.

Nonetheless, many ski racers would give vital organs for an “off year” like this.

This story includes reporting from an FIS news release.

World Cup skiing finals in Italy canceled over coronavirus, narrowing Shiffrin’s shot at overall title

The International Ski Federation announced Friday that it is officially canceling the World Cup finals set for March 18-22 in Cortina, Italy, due to concerns of over the spread of the coronavirus.

Mikaela Shiffrin announced on Thursday that she was returning to the circuit in Europe after a monthlong absence following the death of her father, but now she has only one set of races left in Are, Sweden — if she enters — to try to erase her 153-point deficit to Italian rival Federica Brignone.

Considering the virus, the Italian Winter Sports Federation was hoping to host the finals, scheduled for March 18-22 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, without fans. But during an emergency International Ski Federation board meeting Friday, every nation besides Italy voted to cancel the event, the Italian federation said.

“It’s with great disappointment that I accept this decision,” Italian federation President Flavio Roda said. “Every member of the board made their decision based on limitations that their respective governments have imposed in relation to the virus.”

World Cup rules prevent the finals from being moved to another location.

Nearly 150 people have died in Italy, the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, and more than 3,000 have tested positive for the virus. Many nations have imposed travel restrictions to Italy.

A total of nine events were schedule for Cortina: four men’s races, four women’s races and a team parallel event.

The cancellation leaves only two weekends of racing left for the men, with Alexis Pinturault leading the overall standings, 26 points ahead of Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and 107 points ahead of Henrik Kristoffersen.

Marcel Hirscher, who won the overall title the past eight years, retired before this season.

The men’s title will be decided by speed races in Kvitfjell, Norway, this weekend, and tech races in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, next weekend.

Welcome back to Åre

Shiffrin announced in a video on Thursday morning across her social-media platforms that she was returning to racing. At the time, she said, that she said that “I have no promises that I will actually be able to race.”

Presumably, that had a twofold meaning — whether the Are events were, in fact, happening and/or whether she’ll be up to it on the race days. The women are competing in parallel slalom, giant slalom, and slalom.

View this post on Instagram

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. 🤍

A post shared by Mikaela Shiffrin ⛷💨 (@mikaelashiffrin) on

Shiffrin added that she has no goals for her return, except “to make a few good turns.”

However Shiffrin is feeling on a particular day or regardless of her goals, Are is comfortable place for her to return. It was the site of the 2019 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships when she won super-G and slalom gold as well as bronze in the GS.

What’s more, Shiffrin has made 12 additional World Cup starts at the venue, dating back to March 9, 2013, when she was 17. She has four career wins in Are, her last coming at the 2018 World Cup finals slalom.

While everyone would like to see the Hollywood ending with Shiffrin racing to victory in these upcoming races, dialing down expectations is probably best. One never underestimates what Shiffrin can do on skis, but she admitted in her video that while she has been able to train a bit she understandably has had trouble maintaining her focus as well as she has in the past.

If she is mentally, emotionally and physically up to it, it’s probably would be a good experience returning to a World Cup, racing, getting back into a semblance of what she and her family are calling “a new reality” and letting the results fall where they may.

Previously on the World Cup …

With the caveat that Shiffrin may or may not be results-driven, the World Cup points lists have shifted while she has been away. With Cortina’s cancelation, Switzerland’s Corinne Sutter has clinched the downhill and super-G season titles.

Shiffrin will actually finish fifth in the points in downhill and seventh in super-G.

Italy’s Federica Brignone previously had clinched the combined and has all but locked up the giant slalom. The Italian leads Shiffrin 407-333 with one race remaining. For Shiffrin to retain her GS globe, she would need to win and Brignone, who has finished no worse than eighth in the discipline this season, take 11th or worse.

Brignone is also attempting to become the first Italian woman to win the World Cup in the 53 years of the circuit. (For the trivia buffs in the audience, Gustav Thoeni won it four times during the 1970s, while Alberto Tomba took it home after the 1994-95 season.)

Brignone leads Shiffrin. the three-time defending champion, 1,378-1,225, with three races remaining. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova is third with 1,189 points.

Speaking of Vlhova, the Slovakian leads Shiffrin in a tight slalom race, 460-440, with two races remaining.

Forgoing finals

Held annually since 1993 — and twice in Vail (1994 and 1997) — the World Cup finals have never been scrubbed in their entirety. However, weather conditions — too much snow or not enough — have canceled races affecting the World Cup championship and assorted discipline globes.

Most notably in American ski-racing minds is the 2010-11 women’s World Cup campaign as Lindsey Vonn and Germany’s Maria Riesch (now Höfl-Riesch) were engaged in a season-long battle for the overall title.

Entering the finals, Vonn finished fourth in the downhill in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, to take the lead from Riesch. After the super-G was rained out, Riesch retook the lead, taking fourth in the slalom as Vonn ended up 13th.

The Swiss piste was a mess by the end of the finals, and FIS called the season-ending giant slalom, leaving Riesch with a 1,728-to-1,725 lead over Vonn and the World Cup championship.

Traditionally, in the year before a site hosts the world championships, it holds the World Cup finals as a preview for the racers and a run-through for organizers. Cortina is still scheduled to host worlds Feb. 8-21.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

Mikaela Shiffrin returning to World Cup circuit despite uncertainty over coronavirus

Mikaela Shiffrin took to Instagram video Thursday to announce she is returning to the World Cup circuit in Europe after a month-long absence following the death of her father. Shiffrin’s return to racing comes amid uncertainty over the remaining race schedule due to the spread of coronavirus in Europe.

Shiffrin said she is flying to Scandinavia on Thursday. Three races are scheduled — a parallel slalom, giant slalom, and slalom — one week later in Are, Sweden.

“I have no promises if I’ll actually be able to race,” Shiffrin said in a six-minute video message that addressed the emotions about her father, Jeff, who died on Feb. 2.

“There is no doubt that we are broken,” she said of her family’s grief. “Accepting this new ‘reality’ is going to take a long time, and maybe we never truly will, maybe we don’t have to.”

View this post on Instagram

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. 🤍

A post shared by Mikaela Shiffrin ⛷💨 (@mikaelashiffrin) on

Shiffrin said she had trained a little but with difficulty.

“It has been a slow process, I have struggled with being able to maintain my focus,” said the two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time defending overall World Cup champion. “But it has been therapeutic 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.”

During her absence, Shiffrin has lost her lead in the overall standings to Federica Brignone. In her specialist slalom discipline, Petra Vlhova now has a small lead.

Seven points-scoring events are left on the schedule in Sweden and Italy. However, the World Cup Finals races in Cortina d’Ampezzo are threatened by the virus outbreak in northern Italy.

The International Ski Federation plans an update Friday on the Cortina races, which could be canceled or held without fans at the venue.

Shiffrin last raced on Jan. 26 when she won a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria. The next weekend she returned to her family home in Vail to be with her father at the hospital.

In the video, Shiffrin read one of her father’s favorite poems, thanked the many well-wishers who have sent messages of support, and asked that her family’s privacy continues to be respected.

“Over the last few weeks, my family and I have received an overwhelming amount of support and love,” she said.

This weekend’s women’s events in Ofterschwang, Germany had already been scrubbed because of a lack of snow.

While trying to measure up to her record-setting season of 2018-19 was nigh unto impossible, Shiffrin has been dominant at times, including her December slalom win in Killington, Vermont. (AP file photo/Charles Krupa)
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Her prodigious ski-racing career took understandably took a backseat to her family after her father, Jeff, unexpectedly died at the beginning of February.

While keeping an eye on the big picture that Shiffrin suffered an enormous personal loss recently, and that the entire Eagle County community mourns with her, she has had a successful, while simultaneously challenging campaign in 2019-20.

High expectations

The thought that Shiffrin could match or even come close to the success of her record-setting 2018-19 year was ludicrous and unattainable. There’s a reason everyone was agog after she set a record with 17 World Cup wins (Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider won 14 in 1988-89) while winning her third consecutive World Cup championship, as well as globes in slalom (her sixth in seven seasons), giant slalom (her first) and super-G (a rather unexpected championship).

Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates back-to-back wins in Lienz, Austria, in late December. She won six times on tour, the most of any athlete on the women’s World Cup tour. (AP file photo/Marco Trovati)
Austria Alpine Skiing World Cup

Shiffrin scored 2,204 points on the World Cup. That’s second all-time — men or women — only to Slovenia’s Tina Maze’s blockbuster 2012-13 season (2,414). Adding in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are, where she won slalom and super-G and took bronze in GS, in February 2019, Shiffrin won 19 of her 29 starts, a wonderfully absurd percentage —65.5.

While stipulating that Shiffrin in a generational athletic treasure, a lot of things had to go right for her to accomplish as much as she did in 2018-19. The super-G globe from that year is a perfect example.

Shiffrin skied brilliantly in the discipline winning three times and finishing fourth at the World Cup finals. (Victories at worlds do not count toward World Cup points.)

She also got a break or two along the way. She took off two weeks from speed events in February 2019 and both of those stops were canceled due to weather. The rest of the field lost two chances to gain on an idle Shiffrin in super-G. Shiffrin beat Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer by 47 points (or just about half a race) for the title.

Because Shiffrin did not win in 2019-20 at the Herculean pace that she did in 2018-19, uneducated observers were wondering what was “wrong” with her.

“All I can say is- this season/this sport (my career)/this life is a marathon, not a sprint,” she tweeted, lending the proper perspective, in January.

Six victories

Speaking of perspective, it’s not like Shiffrin fell off the face of the earth by not maintaining her 2018-19 pace. She has won six times on tour this season, edging out rivals Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Italy’s Federica Brignone (five each) for most wins on the tour this winter.

No season is complete without a reindeer, right? Mikaela Shiffrin says hello to her new reindeer, eventually named Ingemar, after winning the Levi, Finland, slalom in November. (AP file photo/Alessandro Trovati)
Alessandro Trovati | AP

Shiffrin still had days where she absolutely dominated — she won slaloms in Levi, Finland, by 1.79-seconds and in Killington, Vermont, by a whopping 2.29 seconds. Shiffrin topped the podium on back-to-back days in Lienz, Austria, in GS and slalom during December.

Keep in mind that she also managed to win in all four of the traditional disciplines in one season with downhill and super-G victories in Bansko, Bulgaria, at the end of January.

At the same time, there was bad luck, bad breaks and frustration. On Jan. 18 in Sestriere, Italy. Shiffrin finished 1-hundredth of a second off the pace in a GS. She finished third as Brignone and Vlhova tied for the win.

The next day, Shiffrin was the victim of a bad course set in parallel slalom, finishing ninth. Shiffrin was tactful as always, but when one course set produces 17 winners and the other three in 20 head-to-head matches, something’s wrong.

On the slopes, 2019-20 was a difficult year at times for Mikaela Shiffrin and she showed frustration in her own mild way. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
Italy Alpine Skiing World Cup

Some days, Shiffrin just wasn’t in the groove, as was the case when she finished 17th in a GS in Courchevel, France, in December.

Nonetheless, many ski racers would give vital organs for an “off year” like this.

This story includes reporting from The Associated Press

Walsh wins World Cup GS; salutes Shiffrin family

Vail’s Thomas Walsh won Wednesday’s Para Alpine Skiing World Cup giant slalom in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia, and dedicated the victory to Jeff Shiffrin, who passed away earlier this month.

Walsh, a cancer survivor, and Mikela Shiffrin grew up together skiing and have been close friends throughout the years.

Walsh, wearing “Be Nice. Think first. Have fun,” Jeff’s words by which to live, taped to the front of his helmet, posted on Twitter after his win.

“Jeff Shiffrin, who passed away, a really good friend of mine, I owe a lot to him, helping me continue to live and continue to ski race,” Walsh said in his video tweet. “I just want to give a shoutout to the entire Shiffrin family, Mikaela, Taylor, Eileen and all the extended family. I’ve been thinking about Jeff. I’ve had this on my helmet every day. He was definitely with me as I won this GS.”

When Walsh was 14, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. He completed his radiation treatment in 2010. In the process of fighting the disease, he had parts of his lung and pelvis removed.

Having skied with Shiffrin in then-Ski Club Vail, Walsh and the Shiffrin family stayed close through his trials and travails.

“He has that kind of ‘zest-for-life’ that is very rare, very contagious, and cannot be stifled. Not even by cancer,” Shiffrin told The Associated Press last spring. “Thomas was always a much better athlete than I was. He was literally good at everything. I mean, everything. Skiing, soccer, a triathlon, dancing, acting, singing, school — you name it. He did it all and he was always the best.”

Walsh has gone on to make the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team. Walsh finished fifth at the Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. He won two bronze medals at the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Italy.

And Wednesday, he won by 0.21 seconds over Arthur Bauchet in the giant slalom. With the victory came a heartfelt message to Jeff and the Shiffrin family.

“It is one of the messages I carry in my heart,” Walsh said on Twitter. “I find myself in debt to people who helped me overcome my cancer treatment and continue to support me while living with a disability. Jeff was one of the most influential people (to help) me do that.”