The Alpine skiing World Cup Finals were canceled Friday over concerns regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Italy. The finals were scheduled for March 18-22 in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
The decision negatively impacts Mikaela Shiffrin’s chances of extending her three-year World Cup championship reign. She has been away from the circuit while mourning the death of her father and announced this week she would try to return.
Near-unanimous vote to cancel skiing World Cup
The International Ski Federation held an emergency meeting on Friday to determine if the World Cup would go on as scheduled. The death toll in Italy due to the coronavirus has jumped to 197 as of Friday afternoon. Schools, theaters and other public places have closed during the outbreak. It is the hardest-hit country in Europe with 4,636 reported cases.
The Italian Winter Sports Federation wanted to at least host the World Cup without fans. Moving to another location was not an option per World Cup rules.
Every nation but Italy voted the cancel the event at the meeting, per the Associated Press.
“It’s with great disappointment that I accept this decision,” Italian federation president Flavio Roda said, via the AP. “Every member of the board made their decision based on limitations that their respective governments have imposed in relation to the virus.”
Nine events were scheduled that week: four men’s races, four women’s races and a team parallel event. The cancellation leaves one set of women’s races left in Åre, Sweden, this weekend.
Shiffrin returning to circuit in second place
Shiffrin announced Thursday she was returning to the World Cup circuit this week after taking time away from the sport after her father died in February. She said in a social media video she had “no promises” on if she would actually race when the time comes.
Shiffrin is the reigning three-time World Cup title holder and is a favorite to win three races if she does take the slopes next weekend.
At last weekend’s races, Italy’s Federica Brignone took first place in the standings and holds a 153-point lead over Shiffrin. Petra Vlhová is 189 points behind Brignone.
“It’s an inconclusive way to finish the season,” Brignone said, via the AP. “What really hurts me will be the loss of the prize celebrations, which represent a special moment to share with the entire team, and the pleasure of hearing your national anthem play.
“I’m really upset. We were looking forward to racing in front of our fans in order to finish this great season in the best manner possible.”
The men have two race weekends left. The Cortina races were to be the first major test of a new men’s course that would be used at next year’s world championships. It’s slated to host skiing at the Milan-Cortina Olympics in 2026.
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