Mikaela Shiffrin rejoins Alpine Ski World Cup circuit but Finals cancelled

Double Olympic champion hasn't raced for personal reasons since start of February and has not yet made a decision on racing in season's final event in Åre, Sweden.

Mikaela Shiffrin has rejoined the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup circuit after a month away for personal reasons, although the double Olympic champion has not yet announced a decision on a return to racing.

The American lost her father, Jeff, on 2 February, and she has not raced since.

On Thursday (5 March), Shiffrin said she was flying to Scandinavia, where the next World Cup event is due to take place.

Races are scheduled in parallel slalom, giant slalom, and slalom in Åre, Sweden.

However, the World Cup Finals, scheduled to take place in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, from 16–22 March, have been cancelled. The season-ending races have been called off due to increasing travel restrictions on Italy over the coronavirus outbreak. They have not been replaced.

It means the women's meet in Åre and the men's two-race event in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, will be the final races of the season.

"It has been therapeutic"

Shiffrin said on social media that she has practised skiing in recent weeks, adding it helped her with the situation.

"It has been a slow process, but it has been therapeutic to be on the mountain," she wrote. "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."

The 25-year-old added that she was not setting herself any targets upon her return to racing, whether or not that happens in Sweden.

"I don’t really even have goals. I just hope to make a few good turns. I think that would make my dad happy," she said.

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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

Finals in Italy off

However, if Shiffrin chooses not to race in Åre, any return to competition will have to happen next season.

The World Cup's annual closing event, which had been scheduled to go ahead in Cortina as a test event for the 2021 World Championships, have been cancelled due to coronavirus.

Skiing's global governing body, FIS, announced the decision on Friday (6 March) evening.

"The main issue that steered the recommendation of the [FIS] Council affecting the organisation of the Finals in Cortina was the travel restrictions imposed by an increasing number of National Authorities, which would have likely limited the participation of several athletes," it said.

The event will not be moved or replaced, FIS added.

"This is certainly not the way we wanted the season to end without World Cup Finals, but we must respect this very serious situation," said FIS president Gian Franco Kasper.

"We look forward to recognising the winning athletes at a later date when we can properly celebrate their accomplishments."

The final Crystal Globe standings will be settled after the races in Åre for the women and Kranjska Gora for the men, with only the overall, slalom, and giant slalom crowns in both genders left to be awarded after those events in addition to the parallel slalom women's title.

Current World Cup Crystal Globe leaders

Women's overall: Federica Brignone (Italy)

Women's slalom: Petra Vlhova (Slovakia)

Women's giant slalom: Federica Brignone

Women's parallel: Petra Vlhova

Men's overall: Alexis Pinturault (France)

Men's slalom: Henrik Kristoffersen (Norway)

Men's giant slalom: Henrik Kristoffersen

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