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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.”

Mikaela Shiffrin graces Sports Illustrated cover

Extra, extra, read all about it.

Mikaela Shiffrin is on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s March issue and she’s dubbed, “the world’s most dominant athlete.”

For readers of Sports Illustrated who do not live in a ski community, it may be controversial to call Shiffrin “the world’s most dominant athlete.” The average American sports fan might be more inclined to focus on the likes of LeBron James, Tom Brady or Mike Trout.

It’s not the first time Shiffrin’s been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She was the cover girl for the 2014 Olympics preview as well as after winning slalom in those games in Sochi, Russia.

She is, however, the first Olympic athlete, according to a press release from the U.S. Ski Team, to be on the cover in a non-Olympic year in recent years.

The shoot for the SI cover took place on Feb. 1 in Trentino, Italy, after Shiffrin won two World Cup speed races in Bansko, Bulgaria, at the end of January.

Obviously, shortly after the shoot, Mikaela got word that her father, Jeff, passed away suddenly, making this a poignant time for publication.

Greg Bishop, the author of the Sports Illustrated piece, wrote, “None of (her fame and success) mattered when the call came, when Shiffrin, only 24, learned that her father, Jeff, had suffered a grave injury in an accident at home in Colorado. Mikaela and her mother, Eileen, immediately flew back from Europe and were able to spend Jeff’s final hours by his side.”

The article profiles the well-known story of Shiffrin growing up and her parents, Jeff and Eileen, trying to instill a sense of normalcy in her life; her first World Cup podium, her Olympic wins and the spectacular success of her 2018-19 season.

The piece then transitions into how Shiffrin was trying to deal with this season and the accompanying unrealistic expectations.

“This season’s been a bit of a struggle again. If that’s where the bar is now, it’s nearly impossible to even come close to that, let alone exceed it,” Sports Illustrated quoted Shiffrin as saying.

Through telling her surreal experience of being at last summer’s ESPYs and not feeling like she belonged in such star-studded company — she knew she wasn’t going to win Best Female Athlete and didn’t bother writing a speech (soccer player Alex Morgan was a mortal lock) and apparently her hands were shaking when she met the NBA’s James — Bishop writes about the constant struggle in Shiffrin’s life between being a normal person and the fame that is a part of her life, whether she wants it or not.

You can read the full story here.

What’s next for the women’s ski World Cup?

So what next for the women’s World Cup?

We start by stipulating that Mikaela Shiffrin should do whatever she feels she needs to do in the wake of her father’s passing. If that’s taking off two weeks, terrific. If she wants to call it a season, that’s fine. If she’d like to make her first appearance back on the slopes during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, that’s cool, too.

Mikaela has nothing to prove to anyone in terms of race wins, World Cup points, globes or medals. She’s got everything, often in duplicate or triplicate. Ski racing is immaterial right now.

The most important thing is the well-being of the Shiffrin family as they mourn their father/husband.

We take this moment to reiterate a portion of what Shiffrin tweeted in announcing her father’s passing.

“Thank you, from the depths of my heart, for respecting my family’s privacy as we grieve during this unimaginable and devastating time,” Shiffrin wrote.

Where things stand

Again, with the rock-solid belief that Shiffrin and her family should do anything and everything it needs to do with regard to this process, the World Cup schedule does continue. Shiffrin leads the overall with 1,125 points, ahead of Italy’s Federica Brignone (955) and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova (830).

Shiffrin tops the slalom chase (Vlhova, 440-360), is second in giant slalom (behind Brignone, 375-314), third in super-G (Brignone 216, Switzerland’s Corinne Suter 200 and Shiffrin at 186), and even second in downhill (Suter’s ahead, 272-256.)

Shiffrin bowed out of last weekend’s World Cup events in Rosa Khutor, Russia, before her father passed. The 2014 Olympic site was meant to host a downhill and a super-G. Due to heavy snow, there was only super-G and Brignone was the winner.

The schedule

The Russian downhill has been moved to this weekend, so Garmisch, Germany, will have two DHs (Friday and Saturday) and a super-G (Sunday). Shiffrin has issued no statement, but it’s no leap of the imagination to say she’s not racing this weekend, having flown back to Colorado already.

Under normal circumstances, which these are decidedly not, she would race in Maribor, Slovenia, with GS and slalom on Feb. 15-16. Shiffrin’s won four of her last five starts there, dating back to 2015.

Crans-Montana, Switzerland, has a downhill and a combined on Feb. 22-23, followed by La Thuile, Italy, on Feb. 29-March 1 (super-G and combined).

If I were to make a guess, the giant slalom and slalom on March 7-8 in Ofterschwang, Germany, would be it — the disciplines best suited to Shiffrin and a bit more than a month of time. The season wraps with a parallel slalom in Stockholm (March 10), tech events in Are, Sweden, (March 13-14) and the World Cup finals in Cortina, Italy, (March 18-22).

Everyone’s mileage may vary. As my mom said in a rare bout of humor after Pop died, “I don’t know. This is the first time my husband has died.” When such a traumatic event happens, everyone’s in a “new normal” — including my mom making a tasteless, yet funny joke — and there’s no predicting anything. Maybe, Shiffrin wants to absorb herself in skiing and comes back for Maribor?

Bottom line: It’s up to you, Mikaela, and your family. Much love and respect, whatever you chose.

To Mikaela and the Shiffrins with love

Oh, Mikaela.

Saying, “I’m sorry about your father,” seems so insufficient, so insignificant, not even close to what is required.

When we started to hear about this on Sunday afternoon, my heart ached for you. As personal as that moment had to be for you, we do know what that’s like.

What happened? How did it happen? What do I do?

The why is the biggest kick in the pants. Regardless of the circumstances, the age of your loved one (it’s always too early), whether he or she had been sick or not, whatever, the moment reaches into your chest and rips everything out, leaving your world spinning.

That you are the greatest skier in the world right now is only part of the reason we in Eagle County ache for you. Yes, you have brought so much joy to us in your staggering resume of accomplishments, which is pretty much everything an Alpine racer can do. It’s how you’ve done it.

You carry yourself with grace and dignity. It’s always stunned me that you’ve been anywhere from 16- to 24-year-old and in the public eye. As grand as the accomplishments have been, you carry yourself as a “normal” person.

(Everyone else, try to remember what you were like when you were 19 or 22. Contrast and compare. Nope. Not even close.)

Even when looking “too cool for school” between runs of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships slalom at Beaver Creek— the jumbotron at the base of the hill showed you with your sunglasses on, laying back with your arms behind your head — it wasn’t you trying to be cool. You were just trying to take a nap, which is really cool when you think about it.

And then you won the second of four straight slalom worlds golds that day, you didn’t celebrate immediately. When asked why no major celebration, you said, “Ted (Ligety) throws his ski. Lindsey (Vonn) falls on the ground. (Tina) Maze puts her finger in the air. How about if I do something epic? Then I get to the finish, and I’m like, ‘Hi. I’m kind of a dork.’ I don’t want to show that side of myself. I’m not that great at showing my emotions. Guess I have to work on that.”

That. That right there is it. When things have been great, like your record-setting 2018-19 season, you stayed humble and rightly pointed out that it wasn’t as easy as you were making it look. This year, when everything hasn’t been so smooth, you’ve been gracious about your competition and the situation, even though you’ve doubtless been frustrated.

Heck, quite possibly the most outrageous thing you’ve done is use the poop emoji on Twitter after finishing 17th in a giant slalom in Courchevel, France, in December. (John McEnroe, you are not.)

It’s the poise and maturity beyond your years that makes you special, perhaps no more so, when you hinted at what happened with your family very early Monday morning.

“Go tell everyone you love that you love them and how much you love them, do it right now. Please,” Shiffrin wrote on Twitter.

Oh, do we relate, Mikaela. A bunch of us have gotten that God-awful call. I remember talking to my father on the evening of Aug. 17, 2006 — he died of a heart attack about nine hours later. I still don’t know whether I said I loved him. I probably did.

Everyone handles this differently and you and your mom, Eileen, and your brother, Taylor, will lean on each other at assorted times and in assorted ways. You can also lean on us.

It’s the least we can do after all you’ve done for us.

Social media tributes pour in for Shiffrin family in wake of Jeff Shiffrin’s death

Condolences poured in via social media to Mikaela Shiffrin and her family on Monday when news broke that Jeff Shiffrin had died unexpectedly at 65 following an accident.

Shiffrin first tweeted at 12:38 a.m. Rocky Mountain time Monday morning with the message, “Go tell everyone you love that you love them and how much you love them, do it right now. Please.”

At 8:18 a.m. on Monday, the three-time World Cup champion issued a formal statement regarding the death of her father, writing, “My family is heartbroken beyond comprehension about the unexpected passing of my kindhearted, loving, caring, patient, wonderful father.”

Fellow Vail skiing superstar Lindsey Vonn was quick with her response via Twitter.

“I’m so so sorry for your loss. Prayers are with you and your family. RIP Jeff,” Vonn wrote, adding emojis of hands in prayer and a broken heart.

The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team wrote, “A heartbreaking tragedy — Jeff was an incredible man. All of our love and prayers go out to @MikaelaShiffrin, Taylor, Eileen and their family in this beyond-heartbreaking time.”

Jeremy Bloom, Colorado football player and Olympic moguls skier, paid his respects, writing, “My heart goes out to the entire @MikaelaShiffrin family for the unexpected and unimaginable (loss) of Jeff, Mikaela’s wonderful father.”

Ceil Folz, the former head of the Vail Valley Foundation that organizes World Cup racing and helped bring the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships to Beaver Creek, where Mikaela won slalom gold, noted Jeff’s passing.

“What the world sees in Mikaela — the determination, kindness, groundedness, commitment… that is Jeff. He lives on in Miki and Taylor in every way. He was one in a million,” Folz wrote.

Even the Mikaela Shiffrin Fan Club also issued its condolences.

“We are devastated by this tragic loss. We knew Jeff only by a few talks at some ceremonies. But even by exchanging only a few words, you could easily tell he’s a very nice, kind and wonderful person. Our love and prayers go out to @MikaelaShiffrin and her family.”