Winter Olympics 2018

Ledecka wins historic double

Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic on her way to winning the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom yesterday. She also took gold in the skiing super-G last week.
Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic on her way to winning the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom yesterday. She also took gold in the skiing super-G last week.

Czech 1st Winter Olympian to triumph in two sports at one Games - skiing & snowboarding

PYEONGCHANG (South Korea) • Ester Ledecka may claim to have a split personality with two personas, "Ester the skier" and "Ester the snowboarder". But after winning the gold in yesterday's snowboard parallel giant slalom, a distinction can no longer be drawn between the alter-egos.

The Czech confirmed her position as the snow queen of the Games by becoming the first woman to win gold in two sports at a single Winter Olympics, following her sensational victory in the super-G skiing last weekend.

"This is fantastic," she said. "It was something very special and I will think about this moment until the end of my life."

Last year, her snowboarding coach, Justin Reiter, insisted that she was "one of the greatest living athletes".

Yet few had thought it was possible to successfully double up.

The 22-year-old sporting polymath - she is also a fine windsurfer and has Tokyo 2020 on her mind - emphatically proved otherwise.

She had posted the fastest time in morning qualifying in the event, which sees snowboarders go head-to-head in a series of knockout races.

And after progressing through the rounds comfortably, she easily beat German Selina Jorg by more than half a second in the final. Germany's Romana Hofmeister took the bronze.

"It was a great feeling," said Ledecka, the first person to compete in skiing and snowboarding at the Games. "It's another great race."

But she confessed it had not been easy to deal with the pressure of having so many great expectations on her shoulders.

"It was much burden during the last week," she said.

"After the super-G, a lot of people were coming and saying, 'Congratulations.' Yet I was also thinking: 'OK, you have to change to snowboard already.' I had quite a hard time.

"However today, I was just standing there and suddenly the snowboard girl comes in. I was just riding with confidence and having fun."

She began skiing aged two, tried snowboarding three years later, and loves both so much she never considered becoming a sports monogamist. When coaches counselled her to choose one or the other, she held her ground.

"My plan is to stay with my heart, so for now, I will do both because I love both," she said.

After her win in the super-G, she celebrated with KFC. But she had different plans this time.

"I'm really looking forward to get to Europe for different cooking because it's been quite a long time here. So no eating today," she joked.

The evolution of sports is driven by athletes whose unique vision opens everyone else's eyes to what is possible. Her road to glory had parallel tracks.

Lee Sang Ho became the first South Korean to win a snowboarding medal when he claimed silver in the parallel giant slalom behind Switzerland's Nevin Galmarini.

"It is great honour to be the first Korean medallist in snowboarding," Lee said. "It could create an opportunity for the government and people to support snowboarding."

The International Olympic Committee executive board met yesterday to consider a report on the Russians' conduct at the Games, before making a decision on whether to lift the suspension of their Olympic status and allow them to fly their flag at the closing ceremony.

No decision was taken, with talks resuming today.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 25, 2018, with the headline 'Ledecka wins historic double'. Print Edition | Subscribe