20-year-old Slovenian junior Meta Hrovat announced herself on the World Cup giant slalom scene with major results in the 2017-18 season, including a hard-fought podium in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, finishing in third place. As this Junior World and National Champion is just starting to come into her own, our friends at FIS sat down with this rising talent to discuss her year and what she has planned for the coming season.
FIS: Your first full season on the World Cup tour was a great success as you improved from 102nd to 50th place in the overall and finished 11th in the giant slalom standings. Did you expect to crack the top 15 that fast in GS?
MH: No, I definitely didn’t expect to end the season in the top 15. My goal for the World Cup races was simply to be constant. With the good results, my self-confidence built up and in the end, the season went better than I had ever imagined. So I’m very satisfied and proud of my season.
What made you so constant this season in that discipline?
I was healthy and motivated the whole season, and this is probably the most important. But also, when I had bad training days on snow I didn’t take it as seriously as I used to before. I kept in mind that only the races count.
Slovenia has a very strong women’s giant slalom team at the moment, with three athletes in the top 15. How is the spirit within the team?
The spirit in our team is very relaxed. It’s great to have Ana Drev with us – she is very experienced and she loves to give us advice. I like how our team works. Even if skiing is an individual sport, it’s great to know that if something goes wrong, your team is there to support you. And the best feeling is to share successful races with the girls. We are really happy and excited for each other when things go well.
How did your integration into the already established team work?
I felt welcomed at the first sight. I’ve learnt a lot from every girl on the team, some of them have been in the ski business for quite a long time and they understand very well how things have to be done. At the beginning, I was sometimes annoyed because I had the feeling that the coaches were too easy on me just because I was the youngest on the team, but that has changed now for sure.
Was someone inside or outside your team a role model for you?
I don’t have a specific role model. I do respect and admire a lot of athletes but I think that everybody is so different that I have to find my own path and this is the best thing about sport. We all want to achieve something great in sport, but there are many different ways to reach it.
You even claimed your first World Cup podium in Lenzerheide last season at only 19-years-old. How did you feel in the morning – were you more nervous or relaxed as usual?
In the morning before the GS race, I felt a little bit insecure because I did some pretty stupid mistakes at the European Cup race in Melchsee Frutt (Switzerland) the previous day. I didn’t feel like I was in my best possible shape that I’ve ever been. Also, during the inspection I realized that the course was much more difficult than I expected, but I’m always up for a challenge and so I was for this one.
Your coach was the course setter in the second run. Did this play a role in the way you approached the final run?
No, I don’t think it had an influence on my skiing. I like the terrain in Lenzerheide because it is really steep, tough, and you have to fight from top to bottom. One of my strengths is that I always fight as much as I can and this time it paid off. I am also very much aware that the slope in Lenzerheide is very specific and anything can happen on this kind of slope.
When did you start to believe that your time might be fast enough for a podium?
Not until there were only two girls left at the start. Even then it was hard to believe.
What went through your mind during and after the podium and all the procedures that followed?
My legs were shaking. There were tears in my eyes. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I was in shock, I cannot even describe the feelings I had in the finish area. I just know that I want to feel what I felt that day as many times as possible.
You were also part of the Olympic Games, the Junior World Championships, and the European Cup last season. How did you handle the busy schedule with more than 45 races?
I was grateful to my body all season long. It was a tough tempo to follow but that’s why we train in the summer, isn’t it? But when things are going well, it’s much easier to stand the busy schedule, you race and train with even greater enthusiasm.
What was your most memorable moment outside of the World Cup, and why?
The Olympic Winter Games for sure and the Junior World Championships, when I won the slalom. It was really unexpected for me and after a pretty bad crash in the giant slalom on the previous day, it felt very special to be able to win. And of course, my home race in Kranjska Gora was another highlight as my neighbors and all the people from Kranjska Gora were cheering along the course. It is very special and not everyone has the chance to experience this and race a World Cup on the hill just a few hundred meters away from home.
Despite your Junior World Championship and National Championship titles in slalom, you had a lot of DNFs and DNQs in that discipline on the World Cup. How do you explain this?
Yes, that is true… I have this love/hate relationship with slalom. On World Cup level, the field is very dense and it’s extremely difficult to qualify for the second run with higher bib numbers because of the course conditions that get more difficult and bumpy. So I have to risk it all and push hard, otherwise there is no chance to qualify. Unfortunately, that way of skiing usually comes with a higher number of mistakes.
What’s one thing you want to improve for next season?
I have to work on my slalom a lot and the more good runs I will do, the more confident I will get. I want to become more consistent in slalom like I am in giant slalom. This means a lot of physical training in summer to get my legs as fast as they can be with different exercises. Soon I will be able to see how it works on the snow between the slalom gates.
On the European Cup and in Junior races, you have competed quite successfully in the speed disciplines (super-G and alpine combined). Which one is your favorite discipline and why?
My favorite discipline is giant slalom, for sure. It’s a fascinating discipline, very complex, and I like every aspect of it. Especially the dynamic of the turns and the feeling of a clean giant slalom is something special.
What discipline(s) do you plan to focus on in the future?
In the future, I want to keep improving in both tech disciplines and start adding more super-G to my training program. But it’s really hard to find time for every discipline, especially during the season, so I will mainly keep focusing on technical disciplines.
You decided to change your skis and switch to Salomon for next season. What are you expecting from this change?
It was a hard decision for me. The Salomon skis are really fun to ski with, and I like the boots a lot. I’m sure that I’ve made right choice. The whole staff from Salomon was very helpful and enthusiastic, and now everyone is ready to work.
Your teammate Ana Bucik made the same choice. Did this influence your decision?
No, not at all. It is a coincidence that we ended up on the same skis again. I’m on my own when I’m skiing, so it would’t make much sense to take this kind of decision based on someone else. But it is true that there are a number of advantages given that we are both working with the same brand – we can exchange and compare our feelings on the skis and help each other.
Release courtesy of FIS.