Following one of the most terrifying crashes in her career, Mikaela Shiffrin is grateful that the outcome wasn't more severe.
The American skier, who holds a record 95 World Cup wins, is described as "pretty sore" by her coach. However, there doesn't seem to be any ligament damage in her left knee. She will not participate in any races this weekend, and the timing of her return remains uncertain.
"After Shiffrin collided with the safety nets at high speed during a World Cup downhill on Friday, U.S. team coach Paul Kristofic remarked, 'She's actually quite good,'"
Kristofic told The Associated Press, "She's positive and, in a certain way, relieved. Because it could have been worse. But she's pretty sore, as you are for most speed crashes. But she was quite upbeat about things."
Shiffrin lost control while landing a jump in a patch of soft snow on the upper portion of the Olympia delle Tofane course, which is slated for use in the 2026 Milan-Cortina Olympics. She then collided with the safety net at high speed.
Medics attended to Shiffrin immediately, and she limped off the course with her left boot raised off the snow. Following the protocol in Cortina, Shiffrin was airlifted halfway down the mountain to a landing area for further evaluations. Subsequently, she was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Cortina.
"Initial analysis shows the ACL and PCL seem intact," stated Shiffrin's team in a statement.
About 20 seconds into her run, just before the narrow Tofana schuss—or chute—through walls of rock, Shiffrin fell. This section is the most characteristic feature of the biggest women's race of the season.
"It's tricky there," Kristofic explained, "because you're landing it, and it's a left-footed turn that has a pretty sharp drop. She was carrying more speed than she did in the training run, and then she probably trimmed a little more line than she should have. It pushed her about a meter too far left, and that's where the terrain change is quite abrupt."
"So it loaded the ski up like crazy, and that's when things started," Kristofic continued. "She tried to save it, but she knew at that point she was in trouble. She was actually trying not to hit the next gate, and that's when it just caught, and she went flying into the net."
In an otherwise record-breaking career, Shiffrin also experienced some high-profile mishaps at the Beijing Olympics two years ago, failing to finish three of her five individual races.
"She doesn't fall often," Kristofic remarked. "But it can happen. It just goes to show you how on the limit athletes push and how the courses push them. And they have to if they want to be competitive."
There are races scheduled every weekend until the season concludes in March. As for when she might return, Kristofic wasn't sure. "We're just going to go day by day at this point, treat what we've got, and try to get her back up to speed," he said.
Other big names also crashed, but former overall champion Federica Brignone managed to get up and ski down. However, Olympic champion Corinne Suter pulled up midway down her run, clutching her left knee, and was airlifted away. Suter's injuries included a torn ACL and damaged meniscus, sidelining her for the season. Michelle Gisin, a two-time Olympic champion, injured her right tibia and will not compete again this weekend.
In total, 12 out of 52 starters didn't finish the race, which was ultimately won by Stephanie Venier of Austria.
The downhill took place under clear and sunny conditions but warm temperatures.
Shiffrin and Brignone joined the ranks of former overall World Cup champions who crashed in the past two weeks, following season-ending injuries to Alexis Pinturault, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, and Petra Vlhova.
Kilde is Shiffrin's boyfriend, and Vlhova is her biggest rival.
"It's just part of the game," Kristofic reflected. "She doesn't have the speed mileage that a lot of the veteran speed skiers do. So it's always a learning process. You learn from successes and tough days, and you put that into the vault and lean on that as you move forward."
Shiffrin's crash overshadowed a significant day for the rest of the U.S. team, with five racers finishing in the top 30 to score points: Jacqueline Wiles placed 13th, Lauren Macuga 16th, Bella Wright 18th, Keely Cashman 27th, and Tricia Mangan 28th.