Czech snowboarder wins shock super-G gold

A joyous Ester Ledecka wearing ski goggles at a news conference, as she was not as prepared as the others "and I don't have no make-up". She was ranked only 43rd in the World Cup super-G standings.
A joyous Ester Ledecka wearing ski goggles at a news conference, as she was not as prepared as the others "and I don't have no make-up". She was ranked only 43rd in the World Cup super-G standings.PHOTO: REUTERS

PYEONGCHANG (South Korea) • An instant after completing her run in yesterday's Olympic women's super-G, Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic stood motionless in the snow as she gazed at the scoreboard where her name was atop the list of finishers.

She shook her head side to side, convinced that what she saw was a mistake or a timing glitch. Professional snowboarders racing on hand-me-down skis do not win gold medals in ski events at the Winter Olympics.

"I thought they were going to put a couple more seconds on my time," Ledecka later said, well aware that the race would be decided by hundredths of a second. "I was waiting for it."

Ledecka came to the Pyeongchang Games planning to make history as the first person to compete at the Olympics in both skiing and snowboarding.

Instead, she crashed the Alpine party at the women's super-G with an astonishing upset victory.

Ledecka, ranked 43rd in the women's World Cup super-G standings, outpaced a field that included Lindsey Vonn, who was competing in the Olympics for the first time in eight years.

The American finished sixth.

Ledecka's time of 1min 21.11sec was one-hundredth of a second faster - the narrowest margin of victory possible in Alpine racing - than the silver medallist Anna Veith, the defending champion in the event. Ledecka's highest finish in a World Cup super-G before Saturday had been 19th. Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein won the bronze medal.

Austrian Veith had been celebrating her run at the bottom of the racecourse as Ledecka pushed out of the start, the 26th racer of the day. Ledecka has won world championship medals in snowboarding but never came close to winning a World Cup ski race.

Since skiers ranked in the top 20 in the event are allowed to go first, the race for the medals was considered over. Then Ledecka charged down the mountain.

"She could never put it all together," Italy's Sofia Goggia, who finished 11th, said of Ledecka. "But today she did."

Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who was injured for three months, also pulled off an incredible feat by becoming the first back-to-back men's figure skating champion in more than six decades and emulate American Dick Button, Olympic winner in 1948 and 1952.

Canada's Samuel Girard steered clear of some late lap mayhem - a crash taking out three of five skaters as the pack entered the final lap - to win the men's short track speed skating 1,000m final.

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Czech snowboarder wins shock super-G gold'. Print Edition | Subscribe