Petra Vlhova wins slalom for Slovakia’s first Alpine gold at Olympics
The Associated Press
BEIJING — Petra Vlhova added an Olympic gold medal to her growing list of achievements, winning the women’s slalom at the Beijing Games on Wednesday.
It was Slovakia’s first Olympic medal in Alpine skiing and helped Vlhova atone for her poor performance in Monday’s giant slalom.
Her biggest rival, two-time Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, went out in the first run of that race and the American again failed to finish her opening run on Wednesday.
Vlhova, who already has clinched the World Cup slalom title, finished an unexpected 14th in the giant slalom and looked set for more disappointment when she completed the first slalom run down the Ice River course in eighth, 0.72 seconds behind leader Lena Dürr.
But last season’s overall World Cup champion made it up on the second run — which was set by her coach, Mauro Pini. She finished in a combined time of 1 minute, 44.98 seconds.
“Honestly, it was really difficult to be calm and focused on my skiing,” Vlhova said. “But I had a lot of power from my team. They trusted me, they believed in me and they repeated to me, ‘You are so strong. Just ski free. Enjoy and focus on your skiing, nothing else.’ They were always repeating this to me in between the two runs.
“I gave everything I had and at the end I am Olympic champion.”
The 26-year-old Vlhova rushed over to hug her teammates and coach after Dürr crossed the line in fourth place.
“She left her heart on the course. That’s what I asked her to do,” Pini said. “After that first run, there was nothing to lose. She had to be courageous and gutsy.
“I told her: ‘I want to see someone gutsy and with a lot of heart on that hill.’ And she did it. Incredible.”
The 30-year-old Dürr burst into tears when she realized she had missed out on what would have been a first medal at a major championship.
Katharina Liensberger of Austria, who won the World Cup and world championship slalom titles last year, was 0.08 slower than Vlhova over the two legs. Wendy Holdener of Switzerland was 0.12 behind Vlhova to add bronze to the silver medal she won in the slalom at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Sara Hector looked set to continue an incredible resurgence by winning a second gold medal in three days but the Olympic giant slalom champion fell with the finish line in sight and an advantage over Vlhova of almost half a second.