CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — If Petra Vlhova wins a medal at the skiing world championships, she’ll be more than happy to add it her collection.
If not, she’ll move on to her bigger goal this season: winning the overall World Cup title.
The 25-year-old Vlhova holds a slim lead over Lara Gut-Behrami in the overall standings entering worlds as she attempts to become the first Slovakian skier — man or woman — to claim the large crystal globe.
“The world championships are not the priority for us,” said Livio Magoni, Vlhova’s coach. “We want a medal but our real goal is the overall, because that would be something historic in Slovakia. We already have medals and we already have discipline titles. We want the big trophy.”
Indeed, Vlhova did win medals at the last two worlds: She helped Slovakia to a stunning silver medal in the team event in 2017 then was the breakout star of the 2019 edition in Are, Sweden, with one medal of each color: gold in giant slalom, silver in combined, and bronze in slalom.
Vlhova has also won four World Cup races this season — three slaloms and one parallel — to raise her career total to 18.
She’s the only skier to enter all 22 World Cup races this season across five different events. Her four wins came at the start of the season then her performance slipped somewhat before she responded with a second-place finish in the final race before worlds — a super-G in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
So Vlhova will be one to watch when the women’s super-G opens the weather-delayed worlds on Thursday.
“We created a summer program designed so that she could maintain her form for longer,” Magoni told The Associated Press. “Our tactic was to start the season super-strong and make everyone else chase us. Then to catch us they’ve got to do things they weren’t planning to do.”
In the past two seasons, Vlhova finished second and third, respectively, overall.
“Everything we’re doing was planned,” Magoni said. “The fatigue she was feeling recently was expected. And that’s why we sent her to the seaside for three days to relax with her family.”
Last week, Vlhova spent a few days in the coastal resort of Grado with her family. It’s where Magoni also sent Tina Maze for some rest when he coached the Slovenian to her record-breaking season and overall title in 2012-13.
Unlike most of her direct competitors, Vlhova has never raced in Cortina before. So the poor weather that pushed back the schedule has allowed her to familiarize herself with the Olympia delle Tofane course — at least to a certain degree.
“The only thing it can help with is that now she knows where the ski lift and team hospitality is,” Magoni said. “As far as the course, sure, we’ve inspected it now.”
Vlhova is planning to race the super-G, combined, parallel, giant slalom and slalom in Cortina.
Then it will be back to battling for the overall title, with only four stops remaining on the women’s circuit after worlds — one of which is in Vlhova’s home resort of Jasna.
Vlhova leads Gut-Behrami by 42 points, with Michelle Gisin also still in contention 182 points behind.
“Whoever wins the overall this year is really strong, because everyone is skiing well this season,” Magoni said. “There are seven athletes who could win gold in combined on Monday — that’s never been the case before.”
Vlhova, though, is chasing something bigger.
Associated Press writer Eric Willemsen contributed.
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