Mikaela Shiffrin tweaks back, will miss World Cup start in Soelden
Well, this is not going as scheduled.
Eight days before the first race of the season, Mikaela Shiffrin is withdrawing from next week’s World Cup giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, and returning to the United States.
On Friday morning, Mikaela Shiffrin announced on her social media that she has tweaked her back and will not race.
“After tweaking my back skiing last week, I have been advised to sit Soelden out to let my back heal so I can race the rest of the season,” Shiffrin said in a Facebook post Friday morning.
With the World Cup ski races staying in Europe this year and the cancellation of the North American races due to COVID-19, including the men’s Birds of Prey races at Beaver Creek, Shiffrin will be flying home.
After Soelden, the next race is a parallel event on Nov. 13 in Lech/Zurs, Austria.
The bigger question?
So — to the bigger question — how much of this is injury and how much of this is the grieving process?
No one doubts Shiffrin’s toughness. In December 2015, she did her ACL. By Feb. 15, 2016, she returned to ski racing and won a World Cup slalom in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. She’s as tough as nails.
As everyone knows, he father, Jeff, passed away on Feb. 2. Shiffrin raced back to be by his side and took a little more than a month off. Her planned return was stymied by COVID-19. She was back in Europe for races in Are, Sweden, when the International Ski Federation called the rest of the season for COVID-19.
Earlier this week, she spoke to The Associated Press’ Eric Willemsen about how the death of her grandmother and father may have changed her perspective.
“I used to worry about winning ski races, and maybe I will again,” Shiffrin said Tuesday in a conference call, according to the AP. “But then my nana died (in October 2019), and I still worried about winning ski races. And then my dad died, and I just gave up ski racing altogether and thought I wouldn’t come back at all.”
Again, according to AP, she has asked the question we all ask ourselves at one point or another, “Is it worth it?”
Both things can be true — she tweaked her back and she’s not ready to compete. As much as a super-human as she appears to be in the Alpine world — start listing three World Cup championships, two Olympic gold medals, five wins at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and 66 World Cup wins — she is still a 25-year-old young woman, and that is young in the greater perspective of things, who is dealing with the loss of her father.
Breaking it down
Shiffrin called her back injury “a tweak.” With seven days until the Soelden GS, one might think that Shiffrin stays in Europe and sees how it goes with her back. Maybe she feels better in a few days and races.
Then she said, “I have been advised to sit Soelden out to let my back heal so I can race the rest of the season.” That seems like more than a tweak. Skier’s backs, of course, are a mess. They absorb a pounding and Shiffrin has reported back issues before. Is this going to be a recurring injury?
There’s also the issue of getting back on snow. Shiffrin was as ready as anyone can be after a devastating loss to return last march and then COVID hit. Soelden in a week was another chance to get “the first race back” out of the way, and that’s not happening.
But, maybe, she’s not ready.
As The Washington Post wrote, the simple question of “How are you doing?” is understandably complicated for Shiffrin.
“It’s a little bit tough to not feel what’s underlying everything,” Shiffrin said to The Post. “When someone says, ‘How are you doing?’ it’s normally with this different tone. And I’m like, ‘We only have 30 seconds here. Can we realistically chat? I don’t know if you really want me to get into that.’
“And on a daily basis, I might be like, ‘Well, at this moment, my eyes are dry, and we’re having a conversation. I’d say that’s a pretty good moment.’”
This may be the first of many starts and stops this season. Grief is a process for everyone and there is no standard timeline. And remember, most people aren’t grieving as they’re speeding down a mountainside. When you’re whizzing down a hill, it’s best that all your concentration be there.
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