Mikaela Shiffrin to return to speed skiing at worlds in Cortina

Mikaela Shiffrin’s long-awaited return to speed skiing will come at the world championships starting next week.

The American standout announced Tuesday that she plans to enter four events at the worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo: combined, super-G, giant slalom and slalom.

It’s the biggest program that Shiffrin has ever embarked on at a major championship — worlds or Olympics.

Before her father died last year, Shiffrin had expanded from her favored technical disciplines of slalom and giant slalom to also race — and excel in — the speed disciplines of super-G and downhill. So much so that she won the gold medal in the super-G at the last worlds in Are, Sweden, two years ago.

Since her extended break and her return to the World Cup circuit in November, though, Shiffrin has not entered a single speed race. But she has spent several days training super-G this week.

“I feel comfortable on the skis and it’s super fun, so I’m really going into the speed section of world champs with the intention almost trying to take it as an opportunity for training,” Shiffrin said.

“Obviously it’s a race and it’s world championships so I’m going to be trying to ski as fast as I can and I think that I’ll be able to have a pretty good result.”

Still, Shiffrin acknowledged that she probably won’t be the favorite for the super-G, with that status belonging to Lara Gut-Behrami, the Swiss racer who has won four straight super-Gs this season.

After all, Shiffrin has not raced on the long boards since winning a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, more than a year ago.

“I just have absolutely no guarantee that it’s going to stack up or if it’s going to be good enough to defend my super-G title,” Shiffrin said. “I’m not going in ‘to defend my title.’ I wanted to be clear about that. It’s a little bit more complex than that, because I definitely haven’t trained a lot of speed. I’ve trained three days of speed in the last year. I’m just trying to be realistic.”

The two-time Olympic champion took a 10-month break from the sport following her father’s death.

The worlds open next Monday with the women’s combined event, followed by the men’s and women’s super-G the following day. Shiffrin’s final event will be the slalom on Feb. 20, a race she will be aiming for a fifth consecutive title in.

No fans will be allowed to attend worlds due to a nationwide ban on spectators at sports events in Italy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Shiffrin’s father, Jeff. On Monday, Shiffrin tweeted, “Wondering why humans are so obsessed with anniversaries.”

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