PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Nobody could get close to Ester Ledecka on this slope. Nobody should be too surprised that she took another gold medal, either.
The Czech snow star won the second leg of an unheard-of Olympic double Saturday, taking the gold medal in snowboarding’s parallel giant slalom to go with her surprise skiing victory in the Alpine super-G seven days earlier.
She came into the Olympics top-ranked on the snowboarding circuit but never considered a threat, until now, in skiing. She’ll leave as the first to win gold medals in both sports.
“I was just standing there, and suddenly, the snowboard girl shows (up) and I was just riding with confidence and enjoying the race and having fun,” Ledecka said.
She outraced Selina Joerg of Germany to the line in the final and won by .46 seconds, a much more comfortable margin than the .01-second edge in the super-G race that left her staring at the clock in shock, wondering if someone had made a mistake.
In a sport that’s often decided by micro-fractions, Ledecka romped all the way through. She had the fastest qualifying time; she won three of her races by .71, .97 and, in the final, by .46 seconds, while the fourth was decided when her opponent slid off the course.
No surprises here. At the end, she pumped her fist, then rode over and offered a long congratulatory hug to Joerg. She conceded that after the whirlwind of the ski win, she felt some pressure.
“(People) were reminding me, ‘Yeah, you’re a skier, you did a great success,’” she said. “Which was very nice but I was thinking ‘OK, but you have to change and be a snowboarder already.’”
She’s quite a snowboarder — the leader in World Cup points and a multiple winner this year on the snowboarding circuit. She always insisted on doing both sports.
But make no mistake, switching back and forth is not as easy as she made it look.
“Oh, no, it’s impossible,” said Ledecka’s snowboard coach, Justin Reiter. “You can go grab Teddy Ligety, go grab Lindsey Vonn, go grab Mikaela (Shiffrin), grab whoever you want, give ‘em two years and tell them to come out and race us, and we’ll see what happens.
“What happened here was once-in-a-lifetime,” Reiter said.
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