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Surprising Canada is a medal away from its best-ever alpine world championships

The team of Valérie Grenier, Britt Richardson, Jeffrey Read and Erik Read gave Canada another surprise medal at the alpine skiing world championships in France, beating the top two seeded countries to take bronze in monday’s mixed team parallel slalom event.

Last week, Canada’s Jack Crawford pulled off a stunning upset to collect gold in the men’s super-G before world-championships rookie Cam Alexander scored an improbable bronze in the men’s downhill. Monday’s unlikely team bronze gave Canada its third medal of the world championships, tying a long-standing national record most recently equaled in 2017.

The mixed team parallel event is a bracket-style competition in which teams of four (two men and two women) from each country square off in head-to-head slalom matchups.

Each skier races side-by-side against their adversary. Whoever crosses the finish line first scores a point for their team, and the first team to three points advances to the next round. If it’s tied 2-2, the team with the best combined time between their fastest male and female skier wins.

The Canadian team, seeded eighth in the 16-team bracket, opened with a 4-0 rout of No. 9 Slovenia before shocking top-ranked Switzerland on the tiebreaker. Grenier, Richardson and the Read brothers then lost their semifinal versus the fifth-seeded United States, sending them to the bronze matchup, where they upset No. 2 Austria on the tiebreaker. The U.S. went on to win gold despite its best skier, Mikael Shiffrin, opting to skip the event.

Canada won three medals at the alpine world championships in 1958 (when Lucille Wheeler captured a pair of gold and a silver), 1968 (when the great Nancy Greene Raine did the same) and 2017 (when Erik Guay won gold and silver and Manny Osborne-Paradis added bronze).

Few expected this year’s team to match the national record after some lean years for the Canadian program. Though Crawford grabbed a surprising Olympic bronze in the men’s combined event last year (and placed fourth in the downhill), Canada’s alpine winnings over the previous six Winter Games consisted of just a single bronze medal — the same as Liechtenstein, a country with fewer than 40,000 people. And Canadians were completely shut out of the medals at the biennial world championships in 2019 and 2021.

Canada ranks fourth in the medal standings in France with four podium opportunities left, all in the slalom or giant slalom. A record-setting fourth medal would be a surprise, as only one Canadian is ranked in the top 15 of the World Cup standings for those disciplines. But Grenier, who’s ninth in the women’s giant slalom, showed last month that she’s capable of a big upset by beating Shiffrin to win a World Cup race in Slovenia.

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