Valerie Grenier wins Kranjska Gora giant slalom; Mikaela Shiffrin’s streak ends

Valerie Grenier
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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.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

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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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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