MONT-TREMBLANT, Que. — Federica Brignone knew she had a chance as the weather took a turn for the worse on Sunday at Mont-Tremblant.
The 33-year-old Italian braved some difficult conditions as snow piled up in centimetres throughout the afternoon to record her second consecutive gold medal in women's World Cup giant slalom.
After placing sixth in the first run, Brignone put in the fastest run of the weekend in the second at one minute 4.27 seconds to climb atop the podium.
"It's incredible, I tried everything during that second run,” said an emotional Brignone, a three-time Olympic medallist. “I had too big of a gap, but I knew in these conditions that if you make the difference, you really make the difference.
"I tried everything, I went to the limit, I was courageous and I made the difference — it was magnificent. I'm really emotional, happy and proud."
Brignone became the oldest giant slalom winner in World Cup history Saturday and finished with a total time of 2:11.95 Sunday to sweep the weekend.
"I've never done this,” she said. “I hope I can take some time tonight to realize it — especially like this, it's really special."
Switzerland's Lara Gut-Behrami, who won the first two GS events this season, took silver (2:12.28).
Two-time Olympic gold medallist Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States was denied a record-extending 91st World Cup win but grabbed bronze (2:12.34) for a second straight day. She increased her overall World Cup lead over Slovakian skier Petra Vlhova, who dropped to fifth in Sunday's competition after posting the fastest first leg in calmer conditions.
The weather hovered around 0 C on an overcast day in Mont-Tremblant before snow started dumping ahead of the second leg.
Shiffrin dropped from second to third but was happy with how she skied under the circumstances.
“I prefer when it’s sunny,” she said with a smile. “When you feel it from the start already that things are just blowing around … the gates are kind of blowing in your face, you can’t see anything, you’re like ‘you just now have to fight and try not to back off good skiing.’ I think I did it the best I could.”
Valerie Grenier, who's from St. Isidore, Ont., but also calls Mont-Tremblant home, was in 11th after one run due to a costly error but climbed to sixth with the third-best second run to finish as the fastest Canadian.
“The snow wasn’t so bad, it was more so the wind that was sweeping up the snow and we couldn’t see much," she said. "There were one or two gates where I couldn’t see the next one.
“It was kind of a wild ride, I was going down the hill like, ‘oh, this is crazy,’ but it was fun.”
The 27-year-old Grenier felt she missed an opportunity after placing eighth on Saturday, however.
“My error cost me a lot this morning, so I think had I avoided it I would’ve been close (to the podium),” she said. “But everyone makes mistakes, it’s part of the game.”
The local favourite said she was still proud of her performance in front of loved ones, and blown away by the support from the crowd all weekend.
Event organizers said more than 15,000 spectators took in the two-day event.
“It feels so good to see everyone who came here today and yesterday, I can’t really believe how many people came to see us,” said Grenier. “It really warms your heart.
“A crowd like this is what makes racing fun.”
Cassidy Gray of Panorama, B.C., finished 24th to place in the top 30 for a second consecutive race after not doing so since March 2021.
“It’s really special for me,” said Gray. “This gives me a lot of confidence, and I know I can do even more. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Justine Clément of Stoneham, Que., and Justine Lamontagne of Mont Sainte-Anne, Que., missed the cut at 50th and 53rd, respectively. Sarah Bennett, also of Stoneham, and Britt Richardson of Canmore, Alta., did not finish.
It was the first time since 1983 that Mont-Tremblant hosted a World Cup alpine event.
Each race in Tremblant offers 144,000 Swiss francs (roughly $220,000) in prize money distributed on a descending scale across the top 30 — with 47,000 going to the winner.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2023.
Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press