YOG champion Petra Vlhová now challenging world’s best
Seven years on from her success at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Innsbruck 2012, Petra Vlhová now finds herself challenging Mikaela Shiffrin for slalom supremacy, while becoming Slovakia’s most decorated World Cup ski racer ever.
Tall, powerful and quick on her feet while attacking gates as she charges down steep, icy slopes, Petra Vlhová is currently enjoying her best World Cup season to date.
The technical skiing specialist – who won a slalom gold medal at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012 at the age of 16 – recently became Slovakia’s most successful World Cup ski racer ever. Her victory over Mikaela Shiffrin in the final of the parallel slalom event in Oslo (Norway) on 1 January earned the 23-year-old her sixth career World Cup victory, moving her one win ahead of her recently retired teammate, Veronika Velez-Zuzulová.
The hard-working Vlhová – who trains under the guidance of renowned Italian coach Livio Magoni – also became the first skier from her nation to win a giant slalom World Cup race, when she triumphed in Semmering (Austria) on 28 December.
Since shining at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012, Vlhová has become a two-time Olympian, having competed at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018. She also captured gold in the slalom at the 2014 World Junior Championships, which were held on home snow in Jasna (Slovakia).
This season, Vlhová has consistently challenged the nearly unbeatable Shiffrin. Just last weekend, the pair had a dead heat for first place in the giant slalom World Cup race in Maribor (Slovenia), and it seems likely that the 23-year-old rivals will continue to push and motivate each other to ski faster for the foreseeable future.
How difficult is it to beat Mikaela Shiffrin?
“I did it [in Semmering] and I was really happy because I was always second, and she was always in front of me. It was really good motivation for me, because everybody knows that she is the best skier and I have great respect for her. She pushes me to my limit, and it is always a great fight with Miki. It was really emotional and a special day for me.”
How special was it to win a YOG gold medal in Innsbruck?
“It was a great experience, even though it was a long time ago. Innsbruck started my career off because I won the slalom, and it was a big result for Slovakia. After that, I started to take more podiums.”
What experience did you gain from the YOG?
“Everything there gave me a lot of experience. From every race, you gain some experience to use in your next race. Maybe it even helped me [in Semmering] to go really fast and win my first giant slalom race.”
How did the YOG help you prepare for the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018?
“Sochi was my first Olympic Winter Games and I didn’t know what to expect. I tried to take all of my YOG experience and use it there. PyeongChang was my second Olympic Winter Games but I had a really difficult time. I was not happy afterwards, but this year is a new season and I think we are moving in a good direction.”
You skied in all six Alpine skiing events in PyeongChang. What was that like?
“I was really tired after those Olympic Games because I did every race and every training [session]. This gave me a lot of experience to also start in downhills. If you want to be the best in skiing, you constantly need to be improving and starting in all events.”