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World Cup ski season in danger as coronavirus spreads

March 1, 2020, 10:35 am

Editor’s note on March 6: The International Ski Federation has officially announced the cancellation of the World Cup Finals.

Italy’s Federica Brignone won the alpine combined season title on Sunday when the event was cancelled due to heavy snow in La Thuile, Italy, and, according to the Associated Press, she may soon lock up the overall title if the rest of the World Cup ski racing season is scrapped due to coronavirus concerns in Europe.

On Saturday, Austria’s Nina Ortlieb won the women’s super-G in La Thuile with a time of 1:11.72, and Brignone was second by an eyelash in 1:11.73. That expanded Brignone’s overall lead over Edwards’ Mikaela Shiffrin to 153 points.

Brignone just recently overtook Shiffrin, the three-time defending overall champion, when the Italian won a combined event last Sunday in Crans Montana, Switzerland. Shiffrin has not raced since late January following the death in early February of her father, Jeff, following an accident at their home in Edwards.

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova on Saturday was just off the podium in fourth at 1:12.11, bringing her to within just 36 points of overtaking Shiffrin, who has not yet indicated whether she will try to return for the final seven races of the season – if in fact they are actually contested.

Next weekend’s slalom and giant slalom races in Germany were cancelled due to a lack of snow, leaving just two races in Are, Sweden, and then races in all five disciplines for the World Cup Finals in mid-March in Cortina, Italy – one of the hardest hit areas for coronavirus infections. Both the men and the women converge for those races, but they may not be contested.

“We need to monitor the overall situation, the WHO [World Health Organization] directives, the local health authorities that will then advise and inform us if these races will be possible or not,” International Ski Federation (FIS) women’s race director Peter Gerdol said, according to the AP.

“This week the snow control will take place in both Are and Cortina so from the snow perspective it should be OK in both ski resorts, in both areas, to have those races,” Gerdol added, but health concerns for both athletes and spectators could result in cancellations, making Brignone the first Italian women to ever win the World Cup in its 53-year history.

Shiffrin last raced Jan. 26 in Bansko, Bulgaria, winning a super-G that Sunday after claiming a downhill on Friday. Shiffrin, who at that point held a 360-point lead over Brignone and a 395-point lead over Vlhova, was gunning for what would have been an American record fourth straight overall title, awarded to the racer who amasses the most point in all five disciplines throughout an entire season. It is the most coveted crystal globe in the sport.

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