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Editor’s update on Friday, Feb, 21: Italy’s Federica Brignone was 7th in Friday’s makeup downhill to trim Mikaela Shiffrin’s overall lead to just 77 points. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova was 4th to close to within 104 points of Shiffrin. Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami — the last woman to win an overall title before Shiffrin claimed three in a row — won the race.
Editor’s update on Saturday, Feb, 22: Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami and Corinne Suter once again finished 1-2 in Crans Montana. Brignone finished 4th to cut Shiffrin’s overall lead to just 27 points. Vlhova finished 14th to close to within 86 points of Shiffrin in the overall chase.
Edwards’ Mikaela Shiffrin will be on the cover of the March issue of the now-monthly Sports Illustrated magazine, but she likely won’t be on a race course this weekend in Crans Montana, Switzerland, and she may not be atop to overall leaderboard by the end of the weekend.
The US Ski & Snowboard Team on Thursday tweeted starters for this weekend’s double downhill and an alpine combined in Crans Montana, and Shiffrin is not on the list.
Shiffrin is taking time off to grieve with her family following the accidental death of her father Jeff earlier this month, and she has missed the last three World Cup events. Switzerland will mark the fourth event in a row Shiffrin has missed, and while she still clings to a 113-point lead, her nearest pursuers – Italy’s Federica Brignone and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova – are closing fast.
Shiffrin did, however, send out a tweet on Thursday that appeared to come from Crans Montana. It read: “Out of breath i am left hoping someday i’ll breathe again.” It included a photo of her as a little girl with her father, Jeff.
“At this point, the current overall leader Mikaela’s return to Europe and return to competition is unknown,” the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team reports.
In Thursday’s downhill training run, Shiffrin obviously did not ski, Brignone was second and Vlhova was seventh. Friday’s training run will be replaced by a makeup for the Rosa Khutor (Russia) downhill that was cancelled earlier this month due to bad weather.
There will be a regular downhill on Saturday in Switzerland, followed by an alpine combined race on Sunday. Brignone excels in the speed events of downhill and super-G, while Vlhova — like Shiffrin — is stronger in the tech events of giant slalom and slalom.
Shiffrin won her first and only combined race (one speed race paired with one run of slalom) at Crans Montana in 2017, and then went on to take the silver medal in combined at the Pyeongchang South Korea Winter Olympics in 2018.
Brignone won an alpine combined at Crans Montana last year when Shiffrin sat it out to recover during her record-shattering 17-win season.
If Brignone picks up a couple of podiums (top three) this weekend, she’ll overtake Shiffrin for the overall lead after the Vail Valley racer was on track to win an American record fourth straight overall season title.
Vlhova is just 154 points behind Shiffrin and 41 behind Brignone, who then will have home snow advantage next weekend with an alpine combined and super-g at La Thuile, Italy the last weekend of February.
After those races, there are just three more events on the women’s circuit this season, including the World Cup Finals in Cortina in March – another friendly venue for Brignone.