Canadian skier St-Germain beats Shiffrin to claim slalom gold

Even hours after her historic world championship slalom victory, Canadian Laurence St-Germain still sorted through the emotions of her golden performance.

St-Germain, 28, shocked herself and the competitive Alpine ski community with a gold-medal performance in Meribel, France, upsetting American Mikaela Shiffrin and denying her a fifth world slalom title Saturday.

St-Germain became the first Canadian to win a women's slalom since Anne Heggtveit struck gold at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif., which also counted as the world championship. She also became the first Canadian woman to claim a world title in any Alpine discipline since 2003, when Melanie Turgeon won the downhill in St. Moritz.

"To be part of that page of history is crazy," St-Germain said during a media conference call from France. "But it's pretty impressive, and I'm proud."

St-Germain is from Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., the same village outside of Quebec City as two-time cross-country world champion Alex Harvey.

She also had a connection to Turgeon because she trained on the same hill as Turgeon at Mont-Sainte-Anne resort.

"To follow her as a world champion is really, really special," St-Germain said.

After her first run over Meribel's Roc-de-Fer course, St-Germain was third behind Switzerland's Wendy Holdener and the front-runner, Shiffrin. There was a 0.61-second difference between the Canadian and American.

St-Germain blazed down the hill to snatch the top spot after her second run, with Holdener and Shiffrin still to come. As she celebrated with teammates Ali Nullmeyer and Amelia Smart, they let her know Holdener straddled a gate and did not finish.

St-Germain then became concerned about what side of the podium she would stand on. So as Shiffrin began her final run, St-Germain asked German Lena Duerr, who finished third, what side of the podium the Canadian should be at.

Duerr kept an eye on the massive video screen as Shiffrin made her down the hill with her second run. The German noticed the American lost time at the top. When Shiffrin crossed .59 seconds behind to finish second behind St-Germain, the Duerr had the answer.

"She told me, 'Well, you'll have to stand in the middle now.'" St-Germain said.

St-Germain's previous career best results were a sixth-place showing in the slalom at the 2019 worlds and sixth at the 2020 World Cup slalom in Levi, Finland.

Three weeks ago, at Spindleruv in Mlyn, Czechia, St-Germain was buoyed by her seventh-place showing. After the result, she set out to continue her progress.

"I did a lot of video analysis to see what I was missing, and it motivated me," St-Germain said. "So I've been working really hard to fix those things.

"I knew today I only needed to stick to my skiing and not think about the result but what I needed to do to hopefully get a good result."

It was Canada's fourth medal — and second gold — at this year's world championships.

The medal harvest began with James Crawford's gold in the super-G on Feb. 9 and continued last Sunday with Cameron Alexander's bronze-medal performance in the downhill.

The Canadian foursome of Valérie Grenier, Jeffrey Read, Britt Richardson and Erik Read. added to the total with a bronze medal in the mixed team parallel event Tuesday.

As the emotions from her victory set in, St-Germain was asked about rising expectations for her.

"It will be a bit more stressful for the rest of the races because I have a bit more expectations," she said. "But I'll try not to let it affect me and stick to my plan.

"I proved that I could be part of the best. But that doesn't mean I can easily win other races. I just proved that I went fast and can be part of the fastest girl in the world, and that's a pretty special day. But it still feels unreal."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2023.

Tim Wharnsby, The Associated Press