Ester Ledecka (CZE) created history at Phoenix Snow Park on Saturday 24 February as she won the women’s snowboard parallel giant slalom to take her second gold of PyeongChang 2018 and complete an unprecedented double.
In doing so, she became the first athlete to win events in both Alpine skiing and snowboarding at the same Olympic Winter Games.
The reigning world champion in the parallel giant slalom had already created one of the biggest stories in the history of Alpine skiing days earlier at PyeongChang 2018, winning the super G event.
From skis to snowboard
Having swapped skis for snowboard, the 22-year-old followed that up with an emphatic win in the women’s PGS, holding off Germany’s Selina Yoerg in the big final. In the process, Ledecka also became only the second woman, after Isabelle Blanc (FRA), to win both the Olympic and world titles in the event.
Still struggling to take in the enormity of her achievement, Ledecka admitted she had been overwhelmed by the interest levels generated in her audacious bid to win gold in two sports.Getty Images
It was a big burden over the last week.” “After the super-G, a lot of people were just coming and saying: 'Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations'. It was so nice.Ester Ledecka Czech republic
And while she was pleased to be back on her snowboard, she said that making the transition from skis to snowboard had felt strange at first.
“I really enjoyed the race today. I had the huge support of my team and I'm really grateful for all they are doing. Without them I couldn't really be here.
"But I was thinking, 'But OK, you have to change to snowboard already'. I had quite a hard time now. I was just standing there and suddenly the snowboard girl comes in. I was just riding with the confidence, enjoying the race and having fun.”
“It’s really satisfying that I could be here competing in both events and winning in both.”
Redefining the boundaries
By winning gold in both snowboard and Alpine skiing, Ledecka has challenged the conventional wisdom regarding what is achievable, and she had a message for any youngsters who might wish to follow in her footsteps and aim for success on both skis and snowboard.
“Do whatever you want,” she said. “If you want to choose just one, then choose just one. I wanted to choose both and a lot of people told me that it's not possible to get to the top in both. Obviously, it's not easy."
“It's a great thing that I can be here in both sports and enjoy both sports here in [the Republic of] Korea.”
“My plan is to stay with my heart, so for now, I think I will do both because I love both and I love to do this,” she added.
Respect from Joerg
Silver medallist Joerg had nothing but praise for Ledecka, describing her as “the girl for the future”, adding that her double gold at PyeongChang 2018 would help raise the profile of snowboard slalom.
“She is quite young and she can do both sports in the next years,” predicted the German. “I think the world is looking to Ester now.”
And the 30-year-old was justifiably proud of her own performance against the world champion. “It was so fantastic for me to race her in the big final. It's already the third time this year. After her big success in skiing, I was quite nervous today. I tried to catch her, be with her or beat her, but she was fast today...
“For me, it was absolutely fantastic to win a medal. Silver, it's like gold.”