Valerie Grenier wins Kranjska Gora giant slalom; Mikaela Shiffrin’s streak ends
KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia — The frustration on Mikaela Shiffrin’s face — mouth agape in apparent disappointment followed by pursed lips — lasted all of about 60 seconds.
By the time the cameras moved off Shiffrin and onto the next competitor, the American regained her smile and was quickly able to analyze the lofty expectations hanging over her — despite finishing in a tie for sixth in her first chance to match Lindsey Vonn’s all-time women’s World Cup wins record.
“Actually 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.”
The giant slalom result Saturday ended a five-race winning streak for Shiffrin and left her with 81 career victories, one fewer than Vonn’s mark of 82.
Shiffrin, who finished 1.33 seconds behind Canadian winner Valerie Grenier, can still match Vonn in another giant slalom scheduled for the same course on Sunday.
“You always have to have patience accomplishing (anything),” Shiffrin said. “And I’m not maybe the most patient person, but in the key moments I have it because what are you going to do?
“Now the streak is over and we just go back to square one and keep fighting for the top step of the podium.”
Never one to seek too much attention, does Shiffrin just want to get the record done with and out of her way?
“I wouldn’t say it’s something that you just get done,” she said. “It’s hard to win races. And what I want to do along the way is feel really proud of my skiing and what I accomplished actually with my turns. And I think people get sick and tired of hearing that. But that’s the only thing that gives me something back in the sport, because the record talk doesn’t give anything to me except pressure.”
Grenier won by a comfortable margin for her first career victory by posting the fastest times in both runs. Marta Bassino finished second, 0.37 behind for her seventh straight podium result in giant slalom, and Petra Vlhova came third, 0.40 behind, for her seventh podium of the season — none of which have been victories.
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.
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 a couple months after her then-best result in Cortina.
“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.”
A Canadian woman hadn’t won a World Cup giant slalom since Kathy Kreiner in 1974, while Kreiner went on to also win the event at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics.
Canadian teammates mobbed Grenier in the finish area to celebrate.
Grenier’s helmet features a smily face sticker in the shape of an egg, because she’s sponsored by the Egg Farmers of Ontario.
“I love eggs. I eat eggs every single day. I’m obsessed,” she said. “So it’s the perfect sponsorship.”
While there were few, if any, Canadian or American fans lining the Podkoren 3 course near the Italian border, there were plenty of spectators waving Slovenian and Slovakian flags.
The upper section was foggy during the first run but visibility improved for the second leg and snow conditions were decent.
Nina O’Brien, another U.S. racer, fell midway down in the first run but did not appear to be seriously injured.
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