Petra Vlhová won her first Olympic medal and the first ever for her nation in Alpine skiing, in a thrilling event at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre on 9 February. She dominated the women’s slalom race, moving to first place after finishing eighth in the first run.
The six-time World Championships medallist, one of the favourites for this event alongside her great rival, Team USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin, beat Austria’s Katharina Liensberger who snagged silver and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener who claimed bronze.
Vlhova made her Olympic Winter Games debut at Sochi 2014, with her best result at PyeongChang 2018, a fifth in Alpine combined.
“It’s difficult to say what it means to me right now. I have been dreaming all my life to win an Olympics or just to have medals,” said Vlhova post-race. “Honestly, it was really difficult to be calm and focused on my skiing. But I had a lot of power from my team.”
Pini: She gave her big heart to it
Vlhová realised before the second ride that she had to pull off the ride of her life, maybe the best in her career. Her Swiss coach Mauro Pini significantly helped her win the coveted gold medal.
“Amazing, amazing second round,” Pini said cheerfully. “I tried to build several combinations and increase the level for racers,” he noted. “Petra won because she was not afraid. She is a fighter; I have always said that. She put her big heart into it, she wanted to win this race.”
From Junior World Champion to Olympic gold medalist
Now considered in the elite club of world skiing, Petra was deemed a skiing prodigy in her childhood. Ending third in her first competition aged eight, her parents spotted her talent, dedication and willingness to work hard to win. Petra is a competitive person, and with her team’s dedicated support, she won the slalom at Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck aged 16. Her World Cup premiere in Semmering in 2012, at the age of 17, resulted in 11th place in slalom, which was the entering ticket into the world elite.
Two years later, Petra became the junior world champion in the slalom on home turf – in Jasná, Slovakia. Since then, Petra completed 7 World Cup seasons, where she achieved 9 podium wins and 26 podiums. In 2019, she finished second overall in slalom and giant slalom in the World Cup results.