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Alpine skier Valérie Grenier approaches the podium as the Olympic Games approach

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Valérie Grenier couldn’t have been much closer to a World Cup podium which looked decidedly different in Slovenia last Saturday.

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And the 25-year-old alpine skier from St-Isidore, Ontario. most definitely liked the view. Grenier finished fourth in a giant slalom at Kranjska Gora, just 0.07 seconds off his first World Cup medal. Sara Hector of Sweden won the two-run race, followed by Tessa Worley of France and Marta Bassino of Italy.

It was the first time in five giant slaloms this season that American Mikaela Shiffrin and Slovakian Petra Vlhova finished without a medal. Vlhova late by 15 e place, while Shiffrin was seventh. Grenier also finished ahead of three Swiss skiers who are among the top five: Lara Gut-Behrami, Michele Gisin and Wendy Holdener.

“I think for a while I didn’t really believe I had my place among the best skiers in the world,” Grenier said on Sunday. “It’s like I wanted to do well but I never tried to reach the podium. It’s always like I don’t want to have too high expectations. But now I’m really starting to believe that I deserve to be here and that I deserve to be with the best athletes. I really feel like I’m part of them now and it’s super helpful.

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This is Grenier’s best career result in the discipline and corresponds to a fourth place in a 2019 super-giant slalom in Italy. She also goes well with a seventh place in giant slalom in Austria in December, her only other race this season. In the meantime, she had to rehabilitate for several weeks after breaking the tibial plates of both legs in a training accident.

On Saturday Grenier finished eighth after the first run, but finished third fastest on the course a second time to allow him to climb the standings boldly. When she crossed the finish line, her two-run time dominated the field.

“It was amazing. That’s all I wanted, to go down and be in the green and see that I was the first. Seeing it was like amazing to me even though it was like a really good race. I thought. that it was solid, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so it sounds surreal, I guess.

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Although she lost three places, she is satisfied with the result and the methodology.

“It confirms to me that I’m really on the right track, I know that I ski fast and it’s just super encouraging before the Olympics. This is exactly what I needed honestly so it just gives me more confidence and I know I can just trust my ski because I noticed I really didn’t have to try something different, I just really did my normal skiing and tried to be solid and it really worked for me so it’s awesome.

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She returned home on Sunday and is taking a week off before joining the women’s technical team for a giant slalom at Kronplatz, Italy, Jan. 25, then in Beijing for her second Olympics. She made her debut at Pyeongchang 2018 and did quite well: sixth in Alpine Combined, 21 st downhill, 23 e in super giant slalom, but did not complete the second round in giant slalom.

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At the time, she was more of a super-G skier, but things changed after failing in 2019 in downhill training at the world championships. She ended up with a fractured right tibia, fibula and ankle. Returning to competition a few months later, she became a better, more patient and calmer giant slalom skier.

“I’m really starting to learn to trust myself more and more over time, I guess. Sometimes you get to a race and you feel like you have to do something special or go all out or somehow try to go faster, but I’m really starting to notice that I don’t have to try to do anything special. I really focus on my skiing and it works every time. My coaches have been really successful in strengthening this in my brain and it has worked really well for me.

She plans to use her latest arrival with her in China to improve on those strong 2018 Olympic results.

“I’m going to take it 100% with me. It really shows me that I belong and it’s not crazy to hope for a podium. This confirms that it makes sense. I’m almost there, so it’s really awesome. I’m sure I really put it out there in the universe. I almost manifest it. I can really see it coming soon. I feel it.”

dbarnes@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sportsdanbarnes

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