Petra Vlhová is a phenomenon. Since her debut at the age of 17 she has been representing Slovakia in slalom and giant slalom, achieving great successes and still keeping an image of a sensible, naturally strong young woman. She completely debunks myths about the young generation being lazy since her passion and work intensity by far exceeds standards typical for our region. Although latest news show lack of success in the opening World Cup giant slalom in Sölden in Austria, defeats are part of sport and Petra keeps perspective and a positive attitude towards her career. We asked what are her top goals, if she cares about media image, and also if we will be able to rent her apartment sometimes in the future. Why? Read in our interview.
Petra, without any doubts, you already belong to the most popular athletes in the history of Slovakia, and your career has only just started. What achievements do you consider to be the top in skiing?
Naturally, I do have my big dreams, but I try to approach it with humility. I always concentrate on the next race, next ride or the next gate in a race. Same as my rivals, I want to win every race. But to really enjoy the end result, first of all I have to be happy internally with my performance. That is more important than the actual result or reaching of any goal.
You are an example for many young people. Do you see you career and your presentation also as a certain social commitment?
I look at it in a different way. Most of all I strive not to disappoint myself, my mum, my family and people to whom I am grateful for being able to fulfill my dreams. I am not concerned whether my behavior or presentation meet some norms that would enable me to be a role model for young people.
As an independent observer I can say that media and public got to love you. Do you try to be authentic in front of a camera or do you listen to recommendations from marketing specialists? Do you have a media strategy?
Yes, I often get recommendations about communications. However, I do not see communication as a scheme or strategy and everything I say is solely my responsibility. My aim is most of all to give truthful answers in the moment, and that does not always satisfy all parties.
When sport is concerned, how many people are on your team? What are they taking care of?
The closest team has 7 people. My brother Boris is the team manager, responsible for its complex logistics. Livio is the main coach, responsible for the sport program. Maťko is his assistant, focusing on many tasks in the training process and in regeneration. Gigi takes care of the skis and equipment, and also helps significantly during the training. Šimon deals with fitness preparation, Marco and Mateo from the Milan sport institute with testing and sport load optimalization. They are all taking care only of me, so I can fully concentrate exclusively on skiing.
With all the training, competitions, travelling, is there any time left for your private life?
During the main season there is time only for skiing. We are doing our best to be fully concentrated and not make any mistakes. The whole program is exactly planned and effective.
Sure, but if you are not training or travelling, how do you relax? Are you able to do nothing and lie in front of the TV?
Outside of the racing season and the training period I have about three weeks when I could afford ‘doing nothing’. When those 3 weeks start, immediately marketing and advertising obligations come flooding in. So if I want to steal a couple of days only for myself, I head over to the Liptovská Mara reservoir during a less busy time and turn my phone off.
Petra Vlhová and motorbikes: is there a chance to see you at the starting line in a motorsport race? Or was your participation in Žaškov a one off?
It feels that every year I am getting more and more limitations and bans regarding my non-skiing activities. Of course, I understand that there are a lot of finances invested in my training and my team, so it would be a pity if I injured myself in some fun activity. But I give no guarantees and it can happen that I will appear at a start of a race.
We all know about the Junior World Championship in Jasná in 2014, the Swedish Åre, Aspen in the United States… What do you personally see as your biggest success so far?
Naturally, sport is mostly about winning, and I am proud that I was able to achieve these big wins. But I am doing everything I can for the biggest successes yet to come.
They will certainly arrive and we are looking forward to them. But failures happen, too, and that is my next question. How do you cope with the fact that Slovaks would typically cheer when everything goes well, but are able even to curse when the results are not so good? Have you learned how to bloc non-constructive criticism or do you perceive it as unjust in a way?
Any criticism from fans is not a problem; I feel much worse when I do not fulfill my own ambitions.
In one of the interviews you characterized your style as forceful, aggressive and edging on risk. Do you consider it to be your typical and unique style or do you expect it to change with time?
I do not think there is a different way to winning for me, so I will focus on perfecting this style.
What are your plans for the near and more distant future? Is your attention turned exclusively to skiing?
At this stage of my life I do not have long-term plans. I am focusing on living this dream of mine and enjoying every single day of it; I am trying to learn as much as possible from people close to me; not to repeat the same mistakes. I am happy that I can do what fulfills me the most.
So we do not know today whether we will be able to stay in a luxury hotel Vlhová, since hospitality is your profession?
That would be very nice. A hotel next to a ski slope with perfect service and lots of sports awards on the walls speaking of nice stories… We will see what life will bring.
Do you think Slovakia is a favorable place for bringing up new generation of athletes?
Skiing is extremely financially demanding. Support of youth sports activities in Slovakia relies heavily on financial possibilities of the parents and so the most important breaking point of your career is the ability to gather funds for a good quality equipment, an experienced coach, and travel to races abroad. It is a huge amount of money and I am lucky that my parents and my brother exchanged their dreams for mine. Without their decision to put all family finances into my skiing I would not be competing at the world level today. I am indebted to them, but I am hoping to be able to give back one day.
We are thankful for the interview. We wish Petra new and even bigger successes that will overshadow the current ones; we hope she will continue to represent Slovakia in the world in the amazing authentic way that is winning our hearts.