'It's a dream come true': Canada's Valérie Grenier wins giant slalom gold in Slovenia

Valerie Grenier, top, celebrates with Canadian teammates after winning during the World Cup women's giant slalom event on Saturday in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. (Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images - image credit)
Valerie Grenier, top, celebrates with Canadian teammates after winning during the World Cup women's giant slalom event on Saturday in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. (Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images - image credit)

Canada's Valérie Grenier skied her way to the top of a World Cup podium for the first time in her career at a giant slalom event in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Saturday.

Grenier, of St. Isidore, Ont., finished in a two-run combined time of one minute 55.01 seconds for her first-ever World Cup medal.

"I still can't believe it," Grenier said in a post-race interview. "It's a dream come true, I've been wanting this for so long I'm going to cry I'm so happy."

The 26-year-old is the first Canadian winner of a women's World Cup giant slalom race since Kathy Kreiner won in Pronften, Germany, in 1974.

WATCH | Grenier captures 1st World Cup medal with victory in Slovenia:

Grenier's best finishes in her 89 previous World Cup races were fourth in this race last year and fourth in a super-G in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, in 2019.

Grenier won three medals — a gold, a silver and a bronze — at junior worlds between 2015 and 2016. But she broke the tibia and fibula bones in her lower right leg in 2019.

"I had four breaks and it just took a really long time to heal. So since the injury, I kind of focused more on giant slalom," she said. "I feel like finally everything is coming together and I'm finally skiing at my best."

WATCH | Grenier suffers mental block upon return from injury:

Italy's Marta Bassino (1:55.38) was second and Petra Vlhova of Slovakia (1:55.41) completed the podium.

Three other Canadians didn't advance to the second run. Britt Richardson of Canmore, Alta., was 35th in 59.67 and Sarah Bennett of Stoneham, Que., 54th (1:00.79) while Cassidy Gray of Invermere, B.C., did not finish.

Grenier was able to hold off her challengers as well as any mid-race jitters.

"I'm really proud of myself, honestly," Grenier said. "I was a bit nervous that I would think about it too much but I felt so good before the second run, I felt so relaxed and excited to go. Everything was normal as if it was just another second run."

WATCH | Grenier talks about winning gold in Slovenia:

Grenier's victory comes two races after a disqualification in Semmering, Austria, where she was penalized for leaving the start gate too early.

"I think it almost put some fire inside of me to get my revenge, but it's revenge on myself because I messed up that day," Grenier said.

"I am so proud of Val," Karin Harjo, head coach of Canada's women's alpine ski team, said in a release. "It's an incredible accomplishment that is so well earned for all the hard work that she has put in through her career.

"For the team this shows the strong dynamic we have, the girls push each other, and they really support each other. Together we work hard, we play hard, we have joy and good things are happening."

Shiffrin's chase put on hold

Meanwhile, American skier Mikaela Shiffrin's pursuit of Lindsey Vonn's women's World Cup wins record will go on for at least another day.

Shiffrin finished tied for sixth with Coralie Frasse Sombet of France in 1:56.34, ending her winning streak at five races.

The American remains stuck on 81 career wins — one victory away from Vonn's mark of 82 victories.

Shiffrin can still match Vonn in another giant slalom scheduled for the same course on Sunday at 2:35 a.m. ET.

"I don't mind talking about it and I'm not tired of it," Shiffrin said. "I'm just like, 'It is what it is.' Everybody is going to say, 'You have the chance to win 82 races and equalize the record,' every single race until I actually do it — if I do it.

"So it kind of doesn't make a difference. I still want to go out and do my best skiing every day. And today that was the best I could do. But maybe I can make some improvements for tomorrow."

Shiffrin stood fifth after the opening run but had only the 18th-fastest second run.

"The thing that stands out in my mind was just one turn. I went quite wide on this second run, but I don't think that turn was what cost me so much," Shiffrin said. "So I have to look at the final pitch and also just think about what I can do to be more aggressive. But the most important thing is also just to get some energy back."

Already with seven wins this season, Shiffrin is also quickly approaching Ingemar Stenmark's overall record — between men and women — of 86 victories.

Vonn retired four years ago when injuries ended her pursuit of Stenmark's record.