Mikaela Shiffrin’s return to the World Cup tour was over before it even began as the final races of the women's Alpine skiing competition were cancelled following coronavirus fears.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) announced the remaining races of the tour would not go ahead due to fears surrounding coronavirus just 24 hours before the slalom event began. They added that the safety of both skiers and supporters was of paramount importance.
The abrupt end to the season means that Shiffrin will be unable to defend her overall ski title from 2019. Shiffrin released a statement earlier this week announcing her return to the circuit after taking time off to grieve the sudden loss of her father Jeff on 2 February.
A post released on Shiffrin’s social media explained the US skiing icon would make her comeback at the event in Åre, Sweden. In an Instagram post, the 24-year-old told her fans and supporters that she had chosen Åre as the course to return to as it holds particularly special memories.
“[Åre] has held a special place in my heart, and it feels like the right place to rejoin my World Cup family and try to race again.”
Shiffrin told The New York Times that arriving in Sweden this week and taking to the piste once more has been a huge step in her grieving process.
“I was really looking forward to these races if nothing else because it’s been a place to put my mind and my energy for the last couple of weeks. A place to focus but also a distraction.”
“This last week has been really monumental in the whole grieving process,” she told Karen Crouse.
Brignone and Vlhova take the top spot
In Shiffrin's absence, her two closest rivals have been able to rise to the top of the standings in both the overall and slalom events.
Federica Brignone was able to stretch out a lead of 153 points over the American to make her the first-ever Italian woman to win the overall title in its 53-year history. This is the first time since 2016 that Shiffrin has not won the overall Crystal Globe.
“The dream of a lifetime has come true, I don’t hide that I cried for happiness," Brignone said following the announcement, as reported by AP News.
"Having won it in this way is certainly not what I wanted. I think I deserved it ... I am proud to have achieved this result in such a difficult time for Italy, I hope to have brought a smile to our country.”
Meanwhile, Petra Vlhova won the slalom title - a discipline that Shiffrin has won six out of the last seven years. But Shiffrin was gracious in defeat using a Twitter thread to congratulate her fellow competitors.
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