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No timeline for Grenier's return to skiing after crash in World Cup race

Canadian alpine skier Valerie Grenier says she is determined to return to the slopes, but doesn't know when that will happen.
Valerie Grenier of Canada speeds down the course as she races in the women's World Cup giant slalom in Mont Tremblant, Que., Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. Grenier is determined to return to the slopes, but isn't sure when that will be.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canadian alpine skier Valerie Grenier says she is determined to return to the slopes, but doesn't know when that will happen.

Speaking to reporters via Zoom on Friday for the first time since her horrific crash at the Cortina d’Ampezzo World Cup super-G Race on Jan. 28, Grenier was unable to provide a timeline for her return to action due to the severity of her injuries. 

“It’s really hard to say right now,” said Grenier of her recovery timeline. 

“I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and partially tore my MCL (medial collateral ligament), but we don’t know if my MCL is going to have to be repaired or not.

"Then, my meniscus might also have something. We don’t know, because, on the MRI, we couldn’t see because of the metal that’s in my leg from my previous injury. So, that’s going to tell how long the rehab is going to be or what’s going to happen."

This is not the first major crash of Grenier’s career. She broke her right leg in four places as well as her right ankle during a training run in Are, Sweden in February 2019 while travelling at approximately 130 kilometers per hour. 

In addition to the ACL and MCL injuries she suffered on Jan. 28, Grenier also fractured her humerus, for which she underwent surgery to correct on Jan. 31 in Innsbruck, Austria before returning to home to St. Isidore, ON on Feb. 3. 

The 27-year-old is now set to undergo knee surgery in the coming days. However, given the recency of her shoulder procedure, the rehabilitation process for that is unclear, as well. 

“Depending on if I can put weight on my knee right away, that’s going to be a bit of a struggle, too,” explained Grenier. 

“With my shoulder, I won’t be able to be on crutches, so I might need to use a wheelchair. These are all things we don’t know right now and are waiting for the surgery to figure out.” 

Two days before the crash, Grenier finished in a three-way tie for third in the downhill competition to earn the first downhill medal of her World Cup career. Grenier has earned a total of four medals on the World Cup circuit thus far, most recently capturing gold for the second consecutive year on Jan. 6 in the giant slalom competition in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. 

Although Grenier said the condensed World Cup schedule was being a factor in exacerbating the fatigue herself and her fellow athletes feel throughout the season, she is staying positive, opting instead to blame her circumstances on the sheer randomness of high-performance sport. 

“I think there’s a lot of bad luck,” said Grenier of her crash. 

“Injuries happen. It’s a part of our sport. We do a sport that has very high chances of getting injured. We take a lot of risks. So, I think it’s just a part of the game, unfortunately.” 

Grenier made it clear that this crash won’t stop her from taking those risks, either. The mental toll of her crash in 2019 forced Grenier to focus on the slower GS races upon recovery before eventually working her way back to the more speed-dominant downhill and super-G over multiple years. But Grenier feels she has the experience to whether that mental storm this time around. 

"At first, I’ll once again focus on GS, as it's easier to focus on skiing, But I plan to do speed again,” said Grenier of her future plans. 

"And I feel like, since my last injury, I’ve become a much better skier technically, and that helps so much with speed, that I’d say I’m on another level compared to the last time. I don’t think that will be much of an issue for me.

"I've accepted it. And I want to come back to speed, for sure."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2024.

Mike Stephens, The Canadian Press