Galaxy of stars light up women’s snowboard
There was no shortage of star quality on display in the women’s snowboard events at PyeongChang 2018. Ester Ledecká (CZE) created Olympic history by winning parallel giant slalom gold to go with her Alpine skiing super-G title, while Chloe Kim (USA) dazzled in the halfpipe, Jamie Anderson (USA) retained her slopestyle crown, Anna Gasser (AUT) took the first Olympic women’s big air gold and Michela Moioli (ITA) underlined her recent supremacy in snowboard cross.
Ledecká enters the record books
Ester Ledecká capped her sensational Winter Games by claiming the parallel giant slalom title to become the first athlete to win Olympic gold medals in both snowboarding and Alpine skiing, having landed the super-G crown a week earlier. The Czech beat Germany’s Selina Jörg in the final, with another German, Ramona Theresia Hofmeister, taking the bronze.
A surprise winner in the super G, an event in which she had never finished higher than 19th in a World Cup race, Ledecká is the undisputed number one in the parallel giant slalom. The 2017 world champion and the World Cup leader heading into PyeongChang 2018, the 22-year-old Czech was in imperious form throughout the competition and held off Jörg to claim the gold by a margin of 0.46 seconds.
“Am I the superstar of the Games? I don’t feel that way but it does sound good,” said the Czech after completing her historic double.
Anderson does it again
After winning the inaugural Olympic women’s snowboard slopestyle four years earlier, the peerless Jamie Anderson defended her title in style at PyeongChang 2018. The American sealed her second consecutive gold by scoring 83 points on her first run, heaping the pressure on her rivals, who were unable to respond.
Reigning world champion Laurie Blouin of Canada earned 76.33 points on her second run to take the silver, while Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi scored 75.38 points on her second attempt to collect a bronze to go with the silver she won in Sochi four years previously.
“I was going to do a cab nine but when I left the jump I knew I didn’t have enough speed and that I had to open out a bit to make the landing,” said Anderson, explaining the adjustment she had to make on her winning run.
The slopestyle World Cup champion of the last two seasons and an X Games winner a few weeks before heading to PyeongChang, Anderson is the first female snowboarder in history to win two Olympic gold medals, matching a feat achieved by male snowboarders Philipp Schoch, Seth Wescott and Vic Wild.
Dream come true for Kim
A double gold medallist at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016, the 17-year-old Chloe Kim made an indelible mark on PyeongChang 2018 by winning the halfpipe title in superlative style. The Californian teenager finished well clear of China’s Liu Jiayu in silver and fellow US rider Arielle Gold, the 2013 world champion, in bronze.
Thanks to her Korean heritage, Kim had most of the crowd at the Phoenix Snowpark cheering her on. She responded to their encouragement by scoring 93.25 on her first run to take a commanding lead. Though Liu responded with scores of 85.35 and 89.75 on her first two runs, Kim closed the competition out with a stunning third run that earned her 98.25 points.
“I knew that I wanted to do that third run, I wanted to do the back-to-back 1080s, go bigger and better,” said the victorious Kim.
Moioli makes up for lost time
Michela Moioli reprised the form that took her to the top of the 2017/18 World Cup standings to land the snowboard cross title, with French teenager Julia Pereira de Sousa-Mabileau taking silver and defending champion Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic the bronze. USA’s Lindsey Jacobellis, one of the stars of the discipline, finished just out of the medals in fourth.
The 22-year-old Italian’s victory was made all the sweeter by the fact that she ruptured her knee ligaments in the final at Sochi 2014. “I am so happy,” said Moioli after winning Olympic gold to go with her 2016 World Cup crown. “It’s the greatest day of my life.”
Pereira owed her silver to a storming finish. “What I’ve just done is incredible. It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said the French youngster afterwards.
Gasser turns on the big air style
Anna Gasser rose to the occasion as big air made its Olympic debut at PyeongChang 2018. The experienced Austrian compiled a total of 185.00 points over her three runs to take the gold ahead of double Olympic slopestyle champion Anderson in silver and 16-year-old Zoi Sadowski-Synott who won bronze, New Zealand’s first medal of the Games and only the second in the country’s history.
Gasser went into the competition as a favourite and lived up to that billing on the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre’s 49-metre ramp - the highest in the world. Despite coming first in the qualification round, she had to come from behind in the 12-rider final. The last competitor to jump in the third run, she landed a cab double cork 1080 to score 96.00 and edge out Anderson, who totalled 177.25 points and had led the competition up until that point.
“I’m so thankful I landed the trick I had in mind and that it was enough to win the gold,” said the Austrian, the 2017 world champion and World Cup winner. “That was a little risk I took. I wasn’t sure. Should I keep it safe, should I just do that trick again and get a better score, or should I risk it? I was so happy when I landed it.”