The highly anticipated contest between skiing rivals Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States and Petra Vlhová of Slovakia, dubbed to be “the ultimate blockbuster event of the Beijing Winter Olympics“, turned in favour of the “Super Slovak” who won Slovakia’s first Olympic medal in Alpine skiing.
Petra Vlhová, 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.
But the “Super Slovak” made it up on the second run to win her first ever Olympic gold, after big rival Mikaela Shiffrin crashed out.
“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.”
“I have achieved several successes, but I do not have an Olympic medal. Stress and expectations will surely come. I want to get it and I will put everything into this ambition of mine.” Petra Vlhová made it clear in her autobiography that for her, the Olympics was the ultimate ambition.
Petra first tried skiing in the mountains around their home town, Liptovský Mikuláš in central Slovakia. She quickly fell in love with the snow and speed, and spent endless hours every winter on the cold slopes dreaming that one day she would be the one on TV, waving the Slovak flag and representing her country.
Skiing is a tough sport and Petra suffered many painful injuries when she was still a girl. Once, she was even knocked unconscious and broke her jaw, but she did not give up the sport. No one becomes a world champion easily.
In 2014, Petra qualified to represent Slovakia at the Winter Olympics in Russia. Although she didn’t win any medals, she was inspired by being around the fastest skiers on the planet in the midst of Olympic glory. In 2018 Olympics, a small mistake cost her a chance of winning gold.
Beijing 2022 was her chance to fulfil her dream.
The old proverb advises, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ Mauro Pini, Vlhova’s new personal coach, puts his own spin on this by explaining that “the first time you go [to an Olympics] you are lost, the second you learn and the third you are ready to perform.”
Petra Vlhová compete in several downhill skiing disciplines; Giant Slalom, Super-G, Combined, and her favourite, the Slalom. She has achieved superstar status in Slovakia and the whole nation will be following her progress closely – as she battles to bring home a gold medal for Slovakia.
“We go there for medals,” Pini said. Sports fans across Slovakia were undoubtedly glued to their screens this week to watch the “Super Slovak” win Slovakia’s first Olympic medal in Alpine skiing.
The size of a country cannot be measured in miles alone. The bilingual book Super Slovaks tells the stories of 50 Slovaks who have changed Slovakia and by doing so shaped the world. From Svatopluk to Alexander Dubcek and Peter Sagan, each beautifully illustrated biography combines to tell the history of Slovakia. It has been written by a team of Slovak and international historians and will be enjoyed by expats interested in learning about Slovak history, as well as younger readers who can enjoy it independently, or with parents.
The book is also proving popular with Slovaks abroad who want to share their culture with younger family members. The bilingual text means that it can also be a language learning tool. The thought-provoking questions after each biography encourage active engagement with the characters and will be sure to prompt discussion.
By David Keys, Zuzana Palovic and Gabriela Bereghazyova
Co-founded by authors Zuzana Palovic and Gabriela Bereghazyova, Global Slovakia is a Bratislava-based not-for-profit organization that seeks to promote Slovakia on the global stage and foster a constructive discussion about the country’s past history, current events and future perspectives. You can also follow them on Facebook!
Don’t forget to support our Super Slovaks – Book Campaign!