Feb. 9 (UPI) — Petra Vlhova has won Slovakia’s first Olympic Alpine skiing medal, taking the gold in women’s slalom on Wednesday at the Beijing Games.
The 26-year-old won by eight hundredth of a second over Austria’s Katharina Liensberger.
Vlhova was sitting in eighth following her first run down the Ice River, but she rocketed to the top of the leaderboard when she scored a blistering 52.09 seconds on her second run that gave her a winning combined total of 1 minute 44.98 seconds.
The six-time World Championship medalist has made two previous appearances in the Olympics, and despite having racked up medals in other tournaments this gold is her first at the Games and the first by a Slovak in Alpine skiing.
“It’s difficult to say what it means to me right now,” she told the media following the event. “I have been dreaming all my life to win an Olympics or just to have medals.”
“I gave everything I had and at the end I am Olympic champion,” she said.
Similarly, the 24-year-old Liensberger was in seventh after her first strong run, but she captured the silver with a second-run time of 52.23 seconds for a combined total of 1 minutes 45.06 seconds.
“I am so grateful for everything, all the hard things that came to me in the past season,” said Liensberger, whose grandfather died in the past year. “Now, it’s just wonderful to know I can be fast and ski at that level. It’s amazing to show that today.”
“I want to give this victory a little bit to my grandpa who is with me,” she said. “It wasn’t nice to lose him but I know he’s here and of course he looked out for me.”
The bronze was won by Wendy Holdener of Switzerland for her time of 1 minute 45.1 seconds.
Mikaela Shiffrin, a favorite in the competition and Team USA’s best chance to medal on the slopes Wednesday, had another disappointing day in Beijing, skiing out of bounds after completing only four gates in her first run.
Dejected, Shiffrin then sat on the side of the course with her head bowed.
“I think I just slipped,” an emotional Shiffrin told NBC after the race. “I mean, I had every intention to go full gas and there wasn’t really space in the course to slip even, not even a little bit. I didn’t give myself space for that and in my experience that mentally has brought my best game, and today I went out on the fifth gate.”
Asked what she was still processing, the champion skier said “everything.”
“Makes me second guess the last 15 years, everything I thought I knew about my own skiing and slalom and racing mentality,” she said. “And I feel really bad. There’s a lot more going on today than just my own situation, but I feel really bad for doing that.”
Former Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn said she was “gutted” for Shiffrin.
“But this does not take away from her storied career and what she can and will accomplish going forward,” she said on Twitter. “Keep your head high.”
She may have another chance to medal with more skiing events on the docket for Beijing.