Mikaela Shiffrin tests positive for COVID-19, will miss Lienz World Cup races
Current World Cup leader is fully vaccinated and had received a booster
With the Beijing Olympics less than six weeks away, Mikaela Shiffrin is the latest professional athlete to test positive for COVID-19.
She delivered the news via Twitter on Monday morning.
“I wanted to let you all know that I’m doing well, but unfortunately I had a positive COVID test,” she posted.
“I’m following protocol and isolating, and I will miss Lienz. Best of luck to my teammates … I’ll be cheering for you. Thank you all for your support. I’ll see you in the new year.”
Currently, Shiffrin leads Italy’s Sofia Goggia by 115 points in the overall World Cup standings. Goggia has been practically unbeatable at the speed events — downhill and super-G — and with six consecutive technical races upcoming, the illness comes at a particularly inopportune time for the American, who is fresh off a first- and a second-place finish at the two Courchevel World Cup giant slaloms. Shiffrin won three straight overall globes from 2017 to 2019 before finishing second in 2020 and fourth in 2021.
She isn’t the first on the Alpine circuit to have tested positive for COVID-19 this year. Former overall champion Lara Gut-Behrami, Austrian world champion Katharina Liensberger and Alice Robinson of New Zealand all have missed time as the result of positive tests. In addition, Maryna Gasienica-Daniel, the Polish skier who finished sixth twice in Courchevel, announced on her Instagram that she is “isolated at home” and will also miss the races in Lienz.
In addition, three World Cup officials, including chief race director Peter Gerdol, tested positive after the races in Courchevel.
Liensberger and Robinson will return to race in Lienz, while Gut-Behrami remains out after her positive case was announced 10 days ago.
Shiffrin had complained of fatigue last week.
“My body is saying, ‘Okay, it’s time to take any sort of rest,’” she told NBC Sports on Dec. 21.
“These next couple weeks it’s also a big push, it’s also tough, but I think, at some point, we get into the groove, and if I can get just one day of rest [before Lienz], it should be okay.”
According to FIS COVID-19 World Cup Risk Management and Testing Protocol, three scenarios for a return to competition after infection are posited. An athlete can return to competition after 10 days if they have received a negative PCR test prior to the event. A positive PCR means they must wait for 14 total days after the confirmed infection before returning to action.
According to a U.S. Ski and Snowboard spokesperson, Shiffrin is vaccinated and had received a booster shot, which is the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic requirement for all Team U.S.A. members going to Beijing. She joins a rash of athletes from the highly vaccinated populations of the NHL, NBA and NFL to have recently been sidelined positive test results. As pointed out by Rachel Bachman at the Wall Street Journal on Monday, a star being sidelined at the last minute not only would be detrimental to that individual’s athletic aspirations, but also would deliver a seismic promotional blow to networks and advertisers.
“In the broader context of the business of the Games, Shiffrin’s illness is a broadcaster’s and marketer’s nightmare,” Bachman wrote.
The 26-year old Coloradan is one of the most high-profile Americans headed to the Olympics, and has been featured on Winter Games promotions by NBCUniversal. Outside Interactive Inc. recently launched a five-part exclusive documentary series on Shiffrin as well.
“It means that ad campaigns, promotions or broadcast schedules built around standout athletes could crumble at any time at the sight of a tiny, spiky virus,” Bachman wrote.
From an athletic standpoint, the three-time Olympic medalist certainly does carry high aspirations, too. She is looking to match Julio Mancuso as the most decorated U.S. female ski racer, which she could do with one medal in China. If she could win three of the five races she is aiming to contest at the Games, which start Feb. 4, she would surpass Janica Kostelic of Croatia for the most gold medals — four — for a female alpine skier. Kostelic and Swede Anja Parson are tied for the most total Olympic medals of any color, with six, another record Shiffrin is nearing.
The World Cup moves to Zagreb, Croatia, after Lienz, for a slalom on Jan. 4.