Petra Vlhova screamed with delight on realising the Olympic gold medal in slalom skiing was hers. The Slovakian wins her first Olympic medal and the first ever for her nation in Alpine skiing, in a thrilling event at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre on Wednesday (9 February).
The six-time World Championships medallist, one of the favourites for this event alongside her great rival, Team USA's Mikaela Shiffrin, beat Austria's Katharina Liensberger who snagged silver and Switzerland's Wendy Holdener who claimed bronze.
Vlhova had a relatively pedestrian first run and was in eighth place going into the second, a huge three-quarters of a second behind the leader, Germany's Lena Duerr. The 26-year-old then proceeded to watch seven skiers come down on the second run, celebrating when she knew she had at least won bronze.
Vlhova made her Olympic Winter Games debut at Sochi 2014, with her best result at PyeongChang 2018, a fifth in Alpine combined.
"It's difficult to say what it means to me right now. I have been dreaming all my life to win an Olympics or just to have medals," said Vlhova post race.
Talking about how she recovered from eighth after the first run to win gold, Vlhova said: "Honestly, it was really difficult to be calm and focused on my skiing. But I had a lot of power from my team. They trusted me, they believed in me and they repeated to me, 'you are so strong, just ski free, enjoy and focus on your skiing, nothing else'. They were always repeating this to me in between the two runs.
"I gave everything I had and at the end I am Olympic champion."
Liensberger, meanwhile, came away from her debut Olympics at PyeongChang 2018, with a silver medal in the inaugural team parallel event and finished eighth in the slalom.
On dedicating her silver medal to her grandfather who passed away recently, Liensberger said: "After all I had this season, I am just so thankful and proud and I want to give this victory a little bit to my grandpa who is with me. It wasn't nice to lose him but I know he's here and of course he looked out for me.
"I am so grateful for everything, all the hard things that came to me in the past season. Now it's just wonderful to know I can be fast and ski at that level. It's amazing to show that today."
After not finishing the slalom and giant slalom in her Olympic Winter Games debut at Sochi 2014, Holdener won a full set of medals at PyeongChang 2018. She led Switzerland to the parallel team gold, and individually won slalom silver and Alpine combined bronze.
"I was disappointed when I came to the finish because I knew it wasn't enough (for gold)," said Holdener. "I somehow felt it and then one by one a girl went behind me and I am so happy after all."
Talking about all three medallists making up significant ground in the second run, the Suisse said: "All the girls were crying. Normally we are strong girls, but I guess it was a surprise for all of us. I was fifth (after run one) and the others were even further behind."
The shock of the first run was America’s Mikaela Shiffrin who skied out after just four gates, failing to complete the course at a second successive Beijing 2022 event.
The next Alpine skiing event is the men’s combined, which takes place Thursday (10 February).