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Mikaela Shiffrin, thankful for lifeline of support, returns to Europe

Tim Layden remembers Jeff Shiffrin: the quiet, constant rock in Mikaela Shiffrin's life.

Mikaela Shiffrin, in a six-minute video expressing gratitude for overwhelming support since her father’s Feb. 2 death, said she’s flying to Europe for a possible return to ski racing.

“I have been able to ski and train a little bit over the last few weeks. It has been a slow process,” she said, sitting beneath a photo of her father, Jeff. “I have struggled with being able to maintain my focus as long as I normally can, but it has been therapeutic to be on the mountain, maybe even healing. 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.

“As far as racing goes, I am flying to Scandinavia today. I have no promises if I’ll actually be able to race. I don’t really even have goals. Any time the topic of winning would come up in the conversation with my dad, he would always say, ‘But, did you make any good turns?’ That’s sort of the basis of our family’s entire philosophy. So, I guess, that would be my goal. I just want to make a few good turns. I think that would make him happy.”

The next World Cup races are a parallel slalom, giant slalom and slalom in Are, Sweden, from March 12-14. The following week are the World Cup Finals in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) is set to announce Friday whether the Finals will happen as scheduled amid coronavirus concerns. On Wednesday, the Italian government announced all sporting events in the country will take place without fans for at least the next month.

Shiffrin last raced Jan. 26, winning a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria.

“When I do return to competition, I just ask that you continue to respect my and my family’s privacy, especially as it relates to our heartbreak,” she said. “There is no doubt that we are broken, and it will take a long time to pick the pieces up and put them together. They won’t fit together as they did before, but, maybe like a piece of Kintsugi art, we will still be able to find beauty in our lives.”

During her February absence, Shiffrin went from leading the World Cup overall standings by 370 points to trailing Italian Federica Brignone by 153 points going into the last seven scheduled races.

Race winners receive 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher.

Shiffrin won the last three World Cup overall titles. This season’s crystal globe could still be at stake going into the World Cup Finals.

Shiffrin also trails Brignone by 93 points in the giant slalom standings with two GS races left and Slovakian Petra Vlhova by 20 points in the slalom race with two events left.

“I don’t know how to adequately describe the number of messages we have received, the most kind and heartwarming messages you could imagine, checking in on us, sharing quotes and poems, song lyrics or telling stories about my dad,” Shiffrin said. “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.”

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