After the last season was ended abruptly with the cancellation of the last stages of the World Cup and the Canadian Championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Quebec skiers will be able to start their new campaign this week, staying on the European continent.
The resort of Sölden, Austria, will be the setting for the first meeting of the season with the presentation of women’s and men’s giant slalom events. The atmosphere will be different, however, since spectators will not have access to the site. The mandatory face covering for athletes when they are not on the track is also part of the measures in place.
“We are fortunate that our sport has been able to adjust. For now, our season is moving forward, ”said Marie-Michèle Gagnon with a smile in her voice.
Installed in Europe since the end of July, the skier from Lac-Etchemin was happy to see the International Ski Federation (FIS) unveil its competition calendar at the beginning of October. If it is a little lightened, the fact remains that several European classics are on the program.
“We feel really grateful to have a season because we see that there have been a lot of sports that have been hyper affected. The FIS and Alpine Canada were able to set up a super high quality program, she assures us. Even though we are in a year with a difficult financial situation, it does not show. We have more coaches this year and they are not overloaded. ”
Several changes also marked the final months of the 31-year-old skier. She changed equipment supplier by getting along with Head and works with a new trainer in the speed team, Hansjorg Plankensteiner.
“It’s going really well. We have a very good relationship. We have worked hard this summer to get back to base. He has a way of explaining that makes a lot of sense to me. […] It’s nice to see that I am able to overcome my weaknesses. Sometimes making a few small changes, either with the trainer, the equipment or a mixture of the two, it can make a big difference in the end, ”she says, adding that her equipment matches better. to his style.
The expected return of Valérie Grenier
Valérie Grenier had to wait more than 18 months to participate in a new World Cup race. The 23-year-old skier struggles to contain her enthusiasm for Saturday’s giant slalom, even if she claims to go there gradually.
“I really, really can’t wait to get back to competition. I’ve been working for this for so long and I really have a fire inside of me, ”she says.
The Mont-Tremblant athlete has recovered from a double ankle fracture and fractures of the tibia and fibula in his right leg. She was injured during training at the 2019 World Championships.
The giant slalom in Sölden will certainly be a big challenge at the start of the season. With a long, steep section and an icy course, this is one of the toughest races on the calendar, according to Grenier.
The skier was able to begin her preparation during a three-week training camp in Italy this summer. She returned to Europe in early September, but pain slowed her progress and forced her to rest for a few days. A change of boots to return to the model of the previous year was however beneficial.
“It was a little frustrating to waste so much time with an equipment problem. We thought maybe it was a problem with my ankle, we did x-rays, but in the end everything was okay. It was only in my boot that it hurt, ”she explains, adding that she was not worried about a new injury.
The participant of the Pyeongchang Games stood out during the 2018-2019 season, notably obtaining two top 5 in super-G at the World Cup.
“It’s been such a long time and I don’t know exactly where I stack up against other girls,” she says. I want to improve from race to race and regain my place among the best. “
The women’s giant slalom event in Sölden is scheduled for Saturday morning. The descents are scheduled for 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.