Ester Ledecka: The best Olympic snowboard racer is still an alpine skier

Ester Ledecka won gold in parallel giant slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics
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On Tuesday at the 2022 Winter Olympics, dual-sport athlete Ester Ledecka (pronounced leh-DETS-ka) of the Czech Republic won gold in parallel giant slalom to successfully defend her Olympic title.

That means the most dominant snowboard racer in the world is still an alpine skier.

After posting the fastest time in parallel giant slalom qualification in Beijing, Ledecka blazed her way through the bracket. The gold medal final came down to Ledecka and Daniela Ulbing of Austria.

Ledecka led from the start and crossed the line ahead of Ulbing, who was later ruled a DNF, though she still takes home the silver. Slovenia’s Gloria Kotnik – competing in her fourth Olympics – won bronze.

Ledecka said she was so focused on her snowboarding technique that she almost forgot she was competing in the final. “I was asking Daniela if that was really it, or if we had more rounds,” she laughed.

With the win, Ledecka is a three-time Olympic gold medalist: two in snowboarding, one in alpine skiing. She is also the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in parallel giant slalom.

Video of Ester Ledecka winning gold in snowboarding parallel giant slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

With snowboarding gold secured, Ester Ledecka turns attention to alpine skiing

While Ledecka’s fellow parallel snowboarders see their Olympics come to a close, the dual-sport athlete Czech star now has to pack up her room and move from one Olympic Village to another. The 2022 Winter Olympics are split between three competition zones: Beijing, Zhangjiakou, and Yanqing. Ledecka was based out of Zhangjiakou zone during the snowboarding competition, but the Prague resident will now head to Yanqing zone to compete in alpine skiing.

Ledecka joked that that move between villages was more daunting than competing in two sports.

“The hardest part is to take all the stuff and take it to the other village,” she said after winning gold. “I’m very messy and I have stuff everywhere.”

The 26-year-old is very much in contention for a medal in her “other” sport. Unlike at the 2018 Winter Olympics, where her gold medal in alpine skiing’s super-G event shocked everyone – including Ledecka herself – the Czech athlete has become a much stronger alpine skier in recent years.

She finished 10th in the overall alpine skiing World Cup standings in both 2020 and 2021, aided by a combined five podium finishes. And because alpine skiing races are organized so that the best competitors in the top-20 – one of the reasons Ledecka’s 2018 win in bib no. 26 was so shocking – she will ski with a lower bib number this time around.

She plans to enter three alpine skiing events in Beijing: super-G, downhill, and combined (full schedule below), and has a shot in all three. She said that while she’s been busy snowboarding this week, her ski coach has been checking out the conditions at the alpine venue, and sending her videos from the course.

As for how she handles the pressure of competing at an Olympics as a defending gold medalist in two sports, Ledecka said she uses a mental trick.

“I thought about it as, [when] I go home, I will for sure have at least two gold medals. Because I have them already.”

Ester Ledecka’s schedule for the 2022 Winter Olympics:

Snowboarding Date / Time (EST) Date / Time (Beijing)
Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom (Qualification) 2/7/22 9:40 PM 2/8/22 10:40 AM
Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom (Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Final) 2/8/22 1:30 AM 2/8/22 2:30 PM

 

Alpine Skiing Date / Time (EST) Date / Time (Beijing)
Women’s Super-G 2/10/22 10:00 PM 2/11/22 11:00 AM
Women’s Downhill 2/14/22 10:00 PM 2/15/22 11:00 AM
Women’s Combined (Downhill Race) 2/16/22 9:30 PM 2/17/22 10:30 AM
Women’s Combined (Slalom Race) 2/17/22 1:00 AM 2/17/22 2:00 PM
Team Event 2/18/22 10:00 PM 2/19/22 11:00 AM

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