Mikaela Shiffrin returns to the World Cup: What to expect
Does she think about a win this weekend?
Were she a movie star, it would go something like this in one of those deep voices.
“Mikaela Shiffrin is back and she’s badder than ever. This time, she takes no prisoners. This time, it’s for keeps.”
Yeah, that’s a little over the top. Shiffrin is returning to the World Cup Thursday for what are now the final three races of the season. We’ve got a parallel slalom on Thursday, a birthday giant slalom on Friday — Shiffrin is turning 25 — and a slalom set for Saturday in Are, Sweden.
So what do we expect?
The natural instinct is to downplay everything and to a certain extent, there’s some merit to it. Nearly six weeks after her father Jeff died, Shiffrin is dipping her toe back into the water.
In spite of the abbreviated schedule, it’s good she’s racing one weekend before the end of the season. It’s already a long wait until Soelden, Austria, in late-October. At least in my case, after my father died, there was comfort returning to a routine.
Skiing is what Shiffrins do. She’s getting back to it, which hopefully is comforting, normal or the “new reality,” as Shiffrin has called the last six weeks. The women of the World Cup are tight. Shiffrin will get a warm reception.
And don’t discount the importance of getting through “firsts,” the first birthday, the first holidays, etc. These are landmarks — Jeff’s birthday was Sunday — and accomplishing them as a family is a big deal.
Shiffrin has said that during her time at home, she did do some training, but not as much as she normally would. She added she hadn’t been able to focus as well. This is all completely understandable in the bigger picture.
A simple assumption is that Shiffrin points those ski tips down for her runs during the three upcoming days and gets another “first” out of the way. Let’s face it, 50 percent of Shiffrin is better than a lot of the field. That’s likely a top 15.
There is, however, still the fact that Shiffrin is a competitor. It’s not the priority of the weekend but think about it. How much would she love to lay a few runs down and take the field for her dad? Yes, as much as this has the makings of a made-for-TV movie of the week, she has to have thought about it.
She had a long time to think about it on the flight. It’s 12-or-so hours from Denver to Sweden. One doesn’t spend that long on a plane without a purpose in mind.
Could you see it happening? Admit it. You could.
However, it winds up this weekend in Sweden, congratulations, Mikaela. After you lose a loved one, there is no such thing as doing a small thing. The so-called small things are huge undertakings, and, well, most of us return to keyboards or other mundane matters, while you’re hurtling yourself down a mountainside.
Go get it, and happy birthday.