Mikaela Shiffrin's long-awaited return to World Cup circuit delayed after back issue

Cassandra Negley
·3-min read

Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin will miss the opening race of the Alpine skiing World Cup season for the first time since 2011. The two-time gold winner and three-time World Cup champion said on social media she will sit out the event after tweaking her back last week.

The announcement comes days after she wondered in a call with media how much longer it would be worth it to be out on the road constantly competing.

Shiffrin to miss skiing opener, extending time away

Shiffrin, 25, is sitting out the giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, the weekend of Oct. 17-18. The event was moved up one week for COVID-19 related safety precautions.

She said she tweaked her back skiing last week has been advised to sit the race out in order to let it heal.

View this post on Instagram

As most of you probably know (if you don’t then mark your calendars now!) the @fisalpine World Cup opener at Soelden is just over one week from today 🥳🥳... but much to my disappointment, I will not be able to start this year🤦‍♀️. After tweaking my back skiing last week, I have been advised to sit Soelden out to let my back heal so I can race the rest of the season. Having started in Soelden for the last eight years straight, this feels...really frustrating and strange (for lack of better words). Luckily, this injury will heal and I will be back in the start soon... (and I can’t wait😏). While this is a bummer to not be racing myself, I am super psyched to watch my teammates compete. They are looking strong, fast, and fired up 🤟🤟. I’ll be cheering as loud as I can for our US women and men next weekend and I hope you will be too! I want to thank everyone, from my sponsors to the media, to the fans, the @usskiteam staff and my teammates, and especially my hometown community, family and friends, for your support in this whole process and for helping me get back out there doing the sport I love. YA’LL... this is HAPPENING. With all the uncertainty throughout this year, we are only ONE WEEK (and a day) away from the start of the World Cup season and that is something to be really excited about🥳🥳. Okay, maybe my countdown has been delayed, but the big countdown is ON and I can’t wait for it to start. I’m wishing the best to everyone racing in Soelden, and I’ll see you all soon👍👍. (📸: Dad🤍)

A post shared by Mikaela Shiffrin ⛷💨 (@mikaelashiffrin) on

Shiffrin has reached the podium in Soelden five of the last six years. She won it in 2014.

“Having started in Soelden for the last eight years straight, this feels...really frustrating and strange (for lack of better words). Luckily, this injury will heal and I will be back in the start soon... (and I can’t wait),” Shiffrin wrote.

Shiffrin hasn’t raced since Jan. 26. She missed the remainder of a shortened 2019-20 season after her father, Jeff, died on Feb. 2. She flew to Sweden and was prepared to return for the final race of the season in March, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shiffrin wrote in her post she was excited the skiing schedule is happening as the pandemic continues. She plans to return home to the United States from Europe to rest and recover. Her return date will be announced later, U.S. Ski & Snowboard said. The next race is a parallel giant slalom on Nov. 13 in Austria.

Shiffrin ponders end of career

Mikaela Shiffrin close up.
United States' Mikaela Shiffrin will miss the skiing season opener due to a back issue. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

Shiffrin questioned her future in the sport earlier this week while talking with media about the season. She said she hasn’t considered quitting yet, but isn’t sure how long it will be worth it to be traveling all the time.

After her grandmother died in October 2019, she said she still worried about ski races. But after the death of her father, she “gave up ski racing altogether and thought I wouldn’t come back at all,” she said via the Associated Press.

“The whole season is in Europe, and we are away from home for around six months during the season, and for another two months during the summer period. I am home not very often,” Shiffrin said, via the AP.

“I have so much passion, and I want to do this, and here I am, and I’m doing it, but it also takes me away from the people that I love,” she said. “At some point that is going to be too much. My brother is back home, I am not going to see him for a pretty long time, but my mom is traveling with me. If she was not able to come, I would not be here, 100 percent.”

Also, she started thinking about what her dad would have wanted her to do.

“I don’t think my dad would want me to stop for him. But it is also hard to know that because he can’t be here to tell me. Those are the things that I struggle with: How long will it be worth the travel, being away from home, all of those things,” she said. “In a way it was a consideration, but I wasn’t thinking: OK, I am going to quit now.”

Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, is a former ski racer who has coached her since she was 3. They travel together and her brother Taylor, a former collegiate ski racer, stays home in Colorado.

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