NOV 23, 2020
She was missed dearly. Mikaela Shiffrin, the undisputed queen of ski racing, had not been in the start gate for 300 days after her father had died unexpectedly. By the time she was ready to race again in Aare, COVID-19 had taken hold, cancelling the rest of the season. Then a tweaked back wouldn’t let her compete in Sölden five weeks ago. Now, she’s finally back! At her comeback slalom, she was super close to victory and reindeer no. 5 in Levi, Finland, finishing just 0.18 seconds behind. She skied to 5th place in the second slalom.
From the moment she carved her first turns into the snow and long before the race started in Levi, everybody was captivated by Mikaela Shiffrin’s much-anticipated return. The World Cup circuit had missed her dearly, her way of inspiring the sport on and off the slopes.
“300 days without competing means you don’t know where you stand and you basically start from scratch,” says Atomic Race Manager Christian Höflehner. And he adds: “In many cases the greatest skiers are the ones with the greatest comebacks. They manage to return and continue more or less where they left off, even after long breaks.” Just like Mikaela Shiffrin.
After her tragic loss and a long period of mourning her father, after 300 days without being able to compete and match with other top athletes, she barely missed a beat, stepping back on the podium in 2nd place at her comeback slalom. She missed victory no. 67 in her 178th World Cup race by just 0.18 seconds and was super close to adding a fifth furry friend to her reindeer herd of Rudolph (2013), Sven (2016), Mr. Gru (2018) and Ingemar (2019). Either way, the entire World Cup family is fascinated by Mikaela’s performance. And her 5th place in the second Levi race perfectly confirmed: She’s back.
MIKAELA’S PRESENCE A GIFT FOR THE WHOLE SCENE
“Mikaela’s comeback is not just important for herself or for us at Atomic, her presence is a gift for the whole ski racing scene,” says Christian Höflehner. “It makes a real difference whether she’s in the start gate or not, because she is such an inspiration both as a human being and as an athlete.” The Atomic team has already benefitted from the superstar’s return: “Chiara Mair and new team member Erin Mielzynski have kicked their seasons off really well, and so has Katharina Gallhuber,” Höflehner states. “And there’s a new name to keep in mind, too: Rosa Pohjolainen from Finland, who scored points on home turf with the third-last bib number. She’s an aspiring racer of extraordinary talent.”
Next up in this somewhat improvised COVID-19 World Cup season: Parallel GS races in Lech / Zürs, Austria on Nov. 26 and 27, 2020.