Mikaela Shiffrin says unexpectedly losing her father last year has left her with a “legitimate broken heart” as she returns to the World Cup circuit this weekend.
Shiffrin secured her 70th World Cup victory in Solden, Austria last month to become the most successful current racer.
Since that win the 26-year-old has been recovering from a back injury that has seen her training limited to the US ski team base in Colorado.
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As she prepares to return for two slalom races this weekend in Levi, Finland, she says her greatest injury is her broken heart.
"There's a lot of people out there with the perspective that somehow I am not actually a complete athlete or ski racer without having to overcome a major physical injury," the two-time Olympic gold medallist told reporters on a conference call.
"To me that is a very different story now after my dad. It is not a physical injury to a bone, or muscle, or ligament, but that emotional side of things.
The injury of a legitimate broken heart, that's something that has been taking a long time to get over.
"I feel like that is probably the biggest injury I will ever have in my career, no matter what happens."
The winner of the Levi races is gifted a reindeer. She already has four reindeers which are Rudolph (2013), Sven (2016), Mr Gru (2018) and Ingemar (2019). The American hopes she can add to her collection.
"It's great to be here and actually looking forward to racing and feel like I am through the worst of the back pain," she added.
"I have had a fair amount of success here over the last years, part of the reason I have quite a few reindeer is because they happened to start giving reindeer out as a prize when I was in the thick of my slalom skiing.
"It's a really cool prize."
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