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Shiffrin concedes ski World Cup title ahead of comeback, talks of Kilde’s ‘life and death’ injury

Mikaela Shiffrin is no longer challenging for a women’s record-tying sixth World Cup overall title this month, and on Friday praised standings leader Lara Gut-Behrami for her “stunning” skiing.

Shiffrin set out her limited race plans for the rest of the season in an online call from Sweden, where she also spoke of being out injured at the same time as her boyfriend, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

Both crashed hard in downhill races in January and Shiffrin revealed the deep laceration Kilde suffered in his calf was “a life or death situation.”

Shiffrin returns to racing on Sunday, in a slalom at Are, six weeks after being airlifted from the course with knee and leg injuries at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Then, the five-time overall World Cup champion held a 340-point lead in the standings over Gut-Behrami. She now trails by almost 400.

With just six races now left — and a maximum 600 points to win — Shiffrin said she will start no more than three and cannot close the gap from third place. Federica Brignone, the 2020 champion, is Gut-Behrami’s only rival for the title.

“I would love to fight for the overall (title) but I also just need to admit where I am this season,” the American star told reporters.

Shiffrin will skip the giant slalom on Saturday and the two speed events — downhill and super-G — at the season-ending races on March 22-23 at Saalbach, Austria.

That leaves her two slalom races — at Are and Saalbach on March 16 — to likely seal her eighth career title in the seasonlong discipline standings. The March 17 giant slalom in Saalbach also is an option.

“I can only do what I can do,” Shiffrin said, acknowledging it took her until the past week to reach “race intensity” in training just for slalom.

During Shiffrin’s recovery, Gut-Behrami surged to win five races and looks set to win her second career overall title. The Swiss star’s first was in 2016, one year before Shiffrin began her era of dominance.

“She’s been stunning this season, so consistent, so strong,” Shiffrin said of Gut-Behrami’s career year at age 32.

“I’m also just a fan of the sport,” said Shiffrin, who turns 29 on Wednesday. “I love watching Lara ski. This year I feel like Lara has really pushed the level.”

Shiffrin and Kilde were rehabilitating in Austria and able to share “quite a few dinners together,” she said.

Kilde’s injuries were much more severe and his dislocated shoulder “was literally blown apart,” Shiffrin said. “He’s progressing really well now, starting to walk a bit. It’s a long road.”

She traveled from Austria to Switzerland to be with Kilde in hospital on Jan. 13 after his crash at Wengen.

“It was a life or death situation for a good eight hours with that kind of cut,” Shiffrin said. “For me, the emotion never really hit in the immediate (moment) watching him on TV.

“It was like, ‘How can I get to him? What can I do to help?’ His family couldn’t arrive until the next day,” she said of her Norwegian partner, who was the men’s World Cup overall champion in 2020.

“We’ve sort of grown together through the last few years of our careers.”


AP skiing: https://ift.tt/XHqV0MI

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