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Mikaela Shiffrin sets return to Alpine skiing World Cup

Mikaela Shiffrin will race Sunday for the first time since spraining left leg ligaments in a Jan. 26 downhill crash.

Shiffrin plans to contest a slalom, her trademark event, at this season’s penultimate World Cup stop in Åre, Sweden.

Shiffrin is skipping Saturday’s giant slalom, her second-best discipline, due to a lack of high quality training in her recovery. She said she had three slalom training sessions that “were remotely close to normal” so far, though they felt good.

“I have boxes that I have to check along the way with this injury,” she said. “And, at any point, if I wasn’t hitting these marks, then we just had to delay the process, and so that kind of moved us into the territory of about the last week where I’ve actually finally been able to get into a slalom course that had combinations, a little bit more length to it, a little bit more intensity. Yesterday, I would say was my first session where I had what I would say race-intensity skiing.”

Åre is a memorable venue for Shiffrin. It’s where she earned her first World Cup win in 2012 at age 17 and broke the Alpine skiing World Cup wins record of 86 last March.

On Jan. 26, Shiffrin sprained ligaments in her left knee and ankle in a downhill race crash in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

She missed the next 10 World Cup races -- though she was planning to skip some of them anyway -- during which Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami and Italian Federica Brignone passed Shiffrin atop the standings for the World Cup overall title.

The overall is the biggest annual prize in ski racing taking into account results from all disciplines over the October-to-March season.

Shiffrin, whose five overall titles are one shy of the female record, now trails Gut-Behrami by 385 points in the standings. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through one point for 30th place.

Gut-Behrami, 32, is in strong position with six races left to become the oldest woman to win an overall title, leading Brignone by 326 points.

The last four races of the season are at the World Cup Finals in Saalbach, Austria, from March 16-17 (slalom and GS) and March 22-23 (super-G and downhill), which air live on Peacock.

Shiffrin said Friday she will not race the super-G and downhill at World Cup Finals, which would mathematically eliminate her from contention for the overall title.

Even if she contested those, she would have needed to make up more than 60 points per race on Gut-Behrami to pass her.

Shiffrin will clinch an eighth career slalom season title if she earns 13 points over the last two slaloms or if German Lena Dürr does not win both races.

Shiffrin can tie the record of most season titles in one discipline that’s shared by Lindsey Vonn (downhill) and Ingemar Stenmark (giant slalom and slalom).

Shiffrin’s primary slalom rival, Petra Vlhova of Slovakia, sustained a season-ending knee injury in a Jan. 20 race crash.

Shiffrin has seven World Cup race wins this season, upping her career record total to 95.

How to watch Mikaela Shiffrin on the 2023-24 Alpine skiing World Cup on Peacock and NBC Sports.