WHISTLER (Reuters) - Sarka Zahrobska’s agonizing decision to split from her father and appoint her boyfriend as her coach paid off when she won bronze in the Olympic slalom on Friday.
The 25-year-old twice weaved down a snowy Whistler mountain to finish third in the women’s slalom and claim bronze behind Germany’s Maria Riesch and Marlies Schild of Austria.
Olga Charvatova won a bronze in downhill competing for Czechoslovakia in 1984 but Zahrobska became the first skier to win an Olympic medal under the Czech Republic flag.
“I am overjoyed,” Zahrobska told reporters. “I have worked really hard for this so I am certainly going to be celebrating tonight.”
Zahrobska has long been among the world’s top woman skiers, winning slalom medals at each of the past three world championships, including gold in Sweden in 2007.
She was coached from childhood by her father Petr but decided to part ways with him last year and credited her Olympic success to her new team.
“We are really a small team, I have only three people, I have my serviceman, I have my physiotherapist and my coach,” she told a news conference.
“Sometimes it’s very hard to train with a small team...but we co-operate very well.”
Zahrobska’s success was also a victory for her family’s perseverance and struggle to get her career started.
With the Czech Ski Federation unable to fully fund her development, they have struggled to find sponsors but she expects the Olympic medal will help produce a financial windfall.
“It depends on your results, if you are good, if you are the best, it’s not such a big problem to get sponsors. But if you have bad results it’s a worse situation,” she said.
”Alpine skiing is very expensive, the Czech Ski Federation provides some money but not the whole so we have to find some other sponsors.
“Of course it will be a great position for me with the bronze medal from the Olympic Games.”
Editing by Ed Osmond