Mikaela Shiffrin rejoins Alpine Ski World Cup circuit but Finals cancelled
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.
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