Canadian ski racer Valerie Grenier getting back on track after rough season

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — Pain management and ski racing often go hand in hand.

Canada’s Valerie Grenier looks forward to a season of less of the first and more of the latter.

The 22-year-old from St-Isidore, Ont., spent last season working around pain and swelling in her lower legs from exertional compartment syndrome, an exercise-induced muscle and nerve condition.

After winning downhill gold and super-G silver at the 2016 world junior championship, Grenier underwent surgery on both legs for the condition.

But a pair of crashes racing in Europe during the 2016-17 season triggered a return of the burning and cramping.

Grenier delayed another surgery in order to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Cortisone shots provided some relief, but of the 19 World Cup races she entered in 2017-18, Grenier either couldn’t start or didn’t finish a dozen of them.

So placing sixth in alpine combined in February’s Winter Games was a triumph in a frustrating season. Skiers race both a slalom and a downhill in combined.

“That result was amazing for me,” Grenier said Thursday. ”With all the struggles I had during the year, I was really blessed with that result.

“It showed me that even though I have problems, I can still manage to have good results.”

Grenier had surgery again in April on her left leg. She’ll continue to deal with compartment syndrome, but is feeling more confident in her ability to do that.

“It’s about quality right now for me, not quantity,” Grenier said.

“I don’t think it’s going to be fully fixed and I won’t have to think about it, just like anyone else with their knees or their back. There’s always something you have to be careful with, so that’s what I’m doing.”

Grenier was the top Canadian placing 38th in Thursday’s final training run for the women’s season-opening World Cup downhills Friday and Saturday at Lake Louise, Alta.

“It wasn’t my best skiing, but hopefully I can change that for tomorrow,” she said.

Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer was fastest Thursday in one minute 48.37 seconds. Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was second in 1:48.69 and Kira Weidle of Germany third in 1:48.86.

Defending overall World Cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. placed fourth.

American ski star Lindsey Vonn will not race in Lake Louise, where she has won 18 World Cup races, because of injuries sustained in a training crash.

The women will also race super-G on Sunday.

When an NHL player sits out practice, coaches often call it a “maintenance day”, which is what Grenier did when she skipped the second of three training sessions.

“In my first training day, I started feeling my shins halfway down the course or two-thirds down, but after taking the day off yesterday, it was a lot better today,” Grenier explained.

Recovery from her latest surgery kept Grenier off snow until September, so she was pleasantly surprised to finish 11th in a World Cup giant slalom Oct. 27 in Soelden, Austria.

“That was proof that even though I didn’t do that much training, I can still be good,” Grenier said.

She’s twice finished in the top 20 in super-G in Lake Louise and would like to get there in downhill too.

“With the training runs, I haven’t been that fast yet, but that doesn’t always mean everything and I’m going to for sure push it a lot more tomorrow,” Grenier said.

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