ARE, Sweden: Newly-crowned world giant slalom champion Petra Vlhova has predicted a long rivalry with US star Mikaela Shiffrin, the pair saying that every race had now become a dogfight as the level of competition continues to rise.
The privately-funded Vlhova kept her nerve to claim a first-ever world gold for Slovakia on Thursday, finishing ahead of Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, with Shiffrin taking bronze in windy, wet conditions with soft snow.
The Slovak, like Shiffrin just 23, arrived in Are in form, having beaten the American in the Oslo parallel slalom.
She has three other World Cup wins to her name this season, as well as seven second places, mostly behind Shiffrin.
“It will be a long fight, but I am so happy because with Miki, we are so close a lot of times and also I was really happy that she was close to me on the (giant slalom) podium,” Vlhova said of Shiffrin.
“We fight all the time on the course. It’s so good because maybe with every race we take another step for our sport.
“Also she pushes me to my limit all the time. It’s good for me and also for her.”
Shiffrin said it was “really motivating to have an opponent that’s always there, not only in slalom but also in GS, and fighting to be on the top step in every discipline the way that I am”.
“It’s motivation, it’s inspiring in some ways. Watching her first run I was thinking, ‘That’s really powerful’,” she said.
Shiffrin has already notched up 56 World Cup wins and has long been seen as untouchable on her day.
But she insisted that it was “important to have opponents like Petra, like Vicky, like all of these girls who are raising the level”.
“If one person raises the level, then the others join and then another person raises the level again and that’s how it goes,” Shiffrin said.
“To have this competition is a really important thing for this sport so that it’s kind of a fight every race.”
The showdown proper will come on Saturday when Vlhova and Shiffrin go again in the slalom.
Shiffrin is three-time defending world champion and admits to being on good form in the most technical of the alpine disciplines.
“Well my skiing in slalom has been really good recently, especially since Maribor” earlier this month, she said.
“I certainly feel more comfortable in slalom in these variable conditions than I do in GS.
“But anything’s possible and the competition level is high and it’s been going all season long.
“Nothing’s decided until the last racer goes through the finish. I’m really looking forward to the fight and we’ll see what happens!”