Slovakian skier Petra Vlhova will stick to her reduced World Cup schedule this season, making it unlikely she’ll become a threat to Mikaela Shiffrin’s bid for the overall title.
Initially a slalom specialist, Vlhova became the first overall champion from Slovakia after starting in all 31 races last season. But she has been sitting out the downhill and super-G events so far this season, while also skipping a parallel event in Austria, which she won last year.
“This is our plan, and we will keep (it) like this,” Vlhova said in a video conference call Monday, adding she planned to compete in only one or two speed races in January in the buildup to the Beijing Olympics.
Vlhova said she eyed a start in the super-G in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee on Jan. 16 and was considering a trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for Jan. 29-30 speed races, the last World Cup events before the Olympics.
“We want to do some speed as well,” Vlhova said. “We want to do something, but not everything.”
The Slovakian trails Shiffrin by 185 points in third place in the overall World Cup standings. Sofia Goggia is second, 90 points behind Shiffrin, putting the Italian speed specialist among the American’s main challengers for the crystal globe. Shiffrin won the overall title three times in row from 2017-19.
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Vlhova started to work with a new coach, Mauro Pini, before the season and they decided to abandon the all-race strategy that had helped Vlhova win the overall title, opting for a less gruelling schedule in an Olympic year.
Having skipped the events in Lake Louise and St. Moritz over the last two weeks, Vlhova will be sitting out a third straight World Cup stop with speed races in Val d’Isère this weekend, before returning to the circuit for two giant slaloms in another French resort, Courchevel, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Now is more free for myself and for my team,” said Vlhova, who stayed in the United States for 10 more days to train at Copper Mountain after the Nov. 27-28 races in Killington.
“It was good for training because last year I didn’t have much time to do training. It was racing or travel time each day and we hadn’t time to do some training.”
Attempting to become the first Slovakian skier to win an Olympic medal, Vlhova did plan to enter speed events in Beijing. Four years ago, she started in five individual events in Pyeongchang but failed to make it on the podium.
“We have done some super-G and downhill training, we are also focusing (on) speed,” said Vlhova, adding that 80% of her training volume included slalom and GS.
Vlhova will continue her GS preparations in the Italian resort of Sestriere for four days before traveling to Courchevel on Sunday.
“I feel good, I am strong,” she said. “We see at the races where I am.”