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As Mikaela Shiffrin herself predicted, her winning streak must come to an end eventually. Today was that day in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. In the first of two back-to-back giant slaloms, the day belonged to 26-year-old Valerie Grenier, who won both runs to decisively take her first World Cup victory. Grenier became the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup giant slalom since Kathy Kreiner in 1974. Shiffrin finished in a tie for sixth, 1.33 seconds off the winning pace.
Watch: Valerie Grenier claims first Wold Cup victory in Kranjska Gora giant slalom
Shiffrin came into the day with the potential to tie Lindsey Vonn’s 82 World Cup wins, the record for female skiers. In most people’s minds, the question is no longer if Shiffrin will break the record, but when. Shiffrin has already won seven races this season, and rode into this weekend on a five-race winning streak across three disciplines. For perspective, Shiffrin won five races last season, and three the season before.
Each of those victories is hard-fought, and especially in giant slalom which has the deepest talent of all the disciplines on the women’s tour. With Grenier’s win, 10 women on the start list have World Cup GS wins.
In early January no sun shines on Kranjska Gora’s Podkoren track. The course starts and ends on steep pitches, cascading over several transitions in between. With no major direction changes in the trail, it demands balance, precision and a relentless drive for the fall-line. Even in this challenging season—where warm conditions have caused several cancellations and had race organizers struggling to cover the race slopes—race organizers managed to create a rock-hard surface.
Fog snaked in and out of the course during the first run. Nevertheless, the women sent it, differentiated less by mistakes than by making slightly too much edge pressure, or swinging too wide around gates.
Grenier, whose previous best finish had been a fourth place on this same hill last season, finished .37 seconds ahead of Italy’s Marta Bassino. Bassino leads the giant slalom standings, having been on the podium in all six giant slalom raced this season. Slovakian Petra Vlhova finished third. For Vlhova, the 2021 Overall World Cup winner, it was her seventh podium of the season, but she has yet to find the top step.
Grenier stood in the finish line in disbelief until she was rushed by her teammates. “I still can’t believe it,” said a smiling Grenier. “It’s a dream come true. I’ve been wanting this for so long. I’m just going to cry.”
While not the finish she was looking for, Shiffrin felt good about her skiing for the day, and acknowledged, “There’s a difference between good skiing and then the fastest skiing. So we’ll look at the video and see what I can adjust and I’ll try tomorrow.”
Not quite at halftime in a grueling season, Shiffrin has amassed 1,015 World Cup points, holding a 369 point lead over Vlhova in the overall standings. Last year only three female athletes exceeded 1,000 points over the entire season.
For Shiffrin, the streak clock resets and she gets back to work, accepting that the talk about records will continue. “Now everybody’s gonna 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 key, she knows, is patience. “I think the trick is you have to be competitive, but you have to have patience, and it doesn’t matter what you’re trying to accomplish. You always have to have patience accomplishing it.”
The same holds true for the fans hoping for another record to fall. The women resume racing tomorrow at Kranjska Gora with another GS.
See the full results from the first 2023 Kranjska Gora giant slalom here.