One of the most exciting and challenging Alpine World Cup seasons in recent memory came to an abrupt end with the cancellation of the World Cup finals scheduled to take place in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, March 16-22 due to concerns surrounding coronavirus.
Under normal circumstances, FIS organizers try to reschedule canceled World Cup races in order to give athletes a fair shot at winning or recouping additional World Cup points. But as health concerns and travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 continue to mount, especially in Italy where the finals were to take place, FIS officials decided to cut the 2019-’20 season short.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for us to make, but ultimately the welfare and health of the athletes, teams, and everyone associated with the World Cup as well as the general public must be our top priority,” said FIS President Gian Franco Kasper. “This is certainly not the way we wanted the season to end without World Cup Finals, but we must respect this very serious situation.”
Four other World Cup events leading up to the finals were also canceled due to the virus, cementing the leaders of the World Cup standings as of the last races as the season’s inevitable winners. For the men, the last World Cup event to take place was in Kvitfjell, Norway, March 5-8. The women on the World Cup circuit last raced in the Crans Montana, Switzerland speed events on Feb. 20-23.
In lieu of the World Cup finals in Cortina, the winners of the 2019-’20 were announced online on March 12, without the pomp and circumstance of the traditional end-of-season awards ceremony immediately following the final events. FIS stated that it plans to formally award Globes to the winning athletes at a later date.
Men’s 2019-’20 World Cup Winners
One the men’s side, Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won the overall title with 1,202 points after a consistent season of landing on the podium in downhill, super-G, and alpine combined events in addition to finishing top-10 in multiple GS races. Swiss skier Beat Feuz managed to clinch his third consecutive downhill Crystal Globe with a commanding lead of 212 points.
Watch: Kilde Finishes 2nd in Final Downhill
“Today I achieved a childhood dream!” Kilde posted on Instagram. “This has been a fantastic season and I have enjoyed every moment and every race. Unfortunately, the season was cut short but in regards to the escalated situation we now find ourselves in, the most important thing is to make sure we do what we can to keep everyone healthy and safe.”
Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen earned his first World Cup GS title, finishing the season just six points ahead of France’s Alexis Pinturault. Kristofferen also clinched his second career World Cup slalom title by two points ahead of France’s Clement Noel.
Another tight margin determined the winner of this year’s super-G discipline, as Switzerland’s Mauro Caviezel won his first World Cup title by finishing the season just three points ahead of Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr.
Women’s 2019-’20 World Cup Winners
On the women’s side, Federica Brignone made history by becoming the first Italian woman to win the World Cup Overall title. Brignone was on the podium in the downhill, super-G, and giant slalom disciplines more often than not this season, bringing her overall point total to 1,378—153 points ahead of Mikaela Shiffrin, who still finishes the season in second overall despite being absent from competition since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2.
Watch: Brignone Finishes 2nd in Final Super-G
Brignone also clinched her first giant slalom title by finishing the season 74 points ahead of Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova. Though she missed out on the GS title, Vlhova finished the season with a first World Cup title of her own in the slalom discipline thanks to a 20-point lead over Shiffrin in the event and becomes the first Slovakian skier in history to win a World Cup Crystal Globe.
Corinne Suter from Switzerland ends the season with World Cup titles in both downhill and super-G—her first in each event—thanks to six podium finishes across both disciplines this season.
“I have a million emotions running through me right now,” Suter posted on Instagram. “With winning both speed titles a big dream has come true. I knew I worked hard for this, and that I was ready for it: but two globes! WOW!”
The anticlimactic ending of the season due to the coronavirus may be difficult for many racers and fans to swallow, especially considering the tight margins that separated the men’s rankings and Shiffrin’s expected return to the start house for the final technical races of the women’s circuit in Are, Sweden until those races were also canceled. Despite the way the 2019-’20 season petered out, it would be hard to argue that it didn’t deliver exciting racing and new victors who deserved their hard-won titles.
“Congratulations to all the Globe winners—despite the end of the season being cut so short, the impressive performances you all had throughout the entire season brought you to this point, and you earned these achievements through and through,” Shiffrin shared on Instagram.
Shiffrin had announced her return to Europe to potentially compete in the final technical events of the women’s World Cup season in Are, Switzerland, scheduled for March 12-14 until those events were also canceled due to coronavirus.
“I do wish I got to stand in the start amongst my competitors and friends again before the season ended,” continued Shiffrin in her post. “But I feel lucky (in a weird way) because I accomplished what I came here to do. I got this far—took that step [of returning to skiing]…even if it wasn’t out of the *racing* start gate. Made a bunch of good turns over the last few days in the final prep, and I’m grateful for that.”
U.S. Ski Team Results
Though she missed the last month of races, Mikaela Shiffrin once again leads the Americans in the final World Cup standings. Shiffrin ends the season second in both overall points and in slalom, where she forfeited her fourth consecutive Globe (sixth in her career) to Petra Vlhova by a mere 20 points. In GS she finishes third behind Vlhova and title winner Federica Brignone. And thanks to podiums in both downhill and super-G throughout the first half the season, Shiffrin ends the season ranked fifth and seventh, respectively.
Breezy Johnson, who made a speedy comeback from a knee injury and returned to the World Cup in January, was able to collect enough points in the seven downhill races that she started in to finish the season ranked 20th in the discipline.
"Less than two months ago I hadn't raced yet," Johnson commented on Instagram. "And it has been absolutely thrilling. Everything I imagined and more. It is disappointing for it all to end this way. I would be thrilled to have another two months of races every weekend ... But it is better to end it this way, healthy and wanting more, than in a helicopter."
Teammates Alice Merryweather and Alice McKennis join Johnson in the top-30, ranking 27th and 28th respectively in the speed event.
Tommy Ford leads the American men in the final World Cup standings in giant slalom, finishing the season ranked fifth in the world in the technical event thanks to landing his first World Cup win at Beaver Creek at the start of the season and a third-place finish in Japan. Ted Ligety and Ryan Cochran-Siegle join Ford in the top-30 in GS, finishing 11th and 20th, respectively.
Thanks to a consistent season across all disciplines, Cochran-Siegle leads the U.S. men in the overall rankings in 20th, followed closely by Ford in 22nd and Travis Ganong in 24th. Ganong excelled in both speed events this season and ends the season ranked 12th in super-G and 13th in downhill. Cochran-Siegle immediately follows Ganong in the downhill rankings in 14th place and Bryce Bennet finishes in 16th in the event.