SOLDEN, Austria (AP)Olympic slalom champion Petra Vlhova is hoping to put two draining seasons behind her when Alpine skiing’s World Cup 2022-23 starts this week.
The Slovakian star, who has been Mikaela Shiffrin’s closest competitor in recent years, said Thursday she struggled to find motivation for summer training after winning gold in Beijing had left her ”a little bit empty.”
Vlhova became the first Alpine skier from Slovakia to win an Olympic medal last February. Weeks before, she had already wrapped up the World Cup slalom title.
Those successes followed a year after Vlhova had claimed what is widely regarded the biggest prize in the sport: the overall World Cup title.
”I have won almost everything that I wanted in my career. After the Olympic Games, I was a little bit in trouble with motivation. I took some (time) off from skiing and the ski world,” Vlhova said in a video call from Solden, where the season opens with a women’s giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier Saturday, followed by the men’s race the next day.
Ultimately, Vlhova went back to skiing on the Saas-Fee glacier in Switzerland in August before flying to Cerro Castor in Argentina for a training camp.
While she said she has found her motivation again, Vlhova is planning to start only in a reduced number of World Cup races – just like last season.
She finished runner-up to Shiffrin in the overall World Cup standings after skiing her strongest events of slalom and giant slalom but only a few super-G and downhill races.
And she won’t change her approach going into the new campaign.
”I decided this last season, also this season, and if we see that we can fight for the overall in the middle of the season, we will do (speed races). But right now, we stay like last year,” she said.
Vlhova completed a grueling schedule in 2020-21, starting in all 31 races that season to beat former overall champion Lara Gut-Behrami to the title by 111 points and become the first overall champion from Slovakia.
The upcoming season includes nine events more.
”It was really difficult for me, physically but also mentally,” Vlhova said about racing all events in a single season.
”From then I decided, OK, I want to go a little bit less and to save my energy. I don’t want to do everything. I am losing passion while I am doing this, so it’s difficult.”
With fewer starts in speed, Vlhova trailed Shiffrin by 184 points in the overall standings last season.
While she dominated the slalom, Vlhova gained fewer points in GS than the American and was outscored in the speed disciplines. Where Shiffrin racked up 485 points, Vlhova got stuck at 48.
And staying away from most speed events again won’t boost Vlhova’s chances to turn the tables on Shiffrin this season.
”Of course, Mikaela will be strong, maybe Sofia (Goggia), Lara (Gut-Behrami) also. Everybody who is going to do all disciplines, they take a lot of podiums,” said Vlhova, for now leaving herself out of the circle of favorites.
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