Multitalented Ledecka plots historic second gold with help of her coaches
Czech athlete Ester Ledecka will attempt to win a second medal of PyeongChang 2018 when she begins her quest in the women’s snowboard slalom after having already shocked the Alpine world by racing to victory in the women’s super-G.
Ledecka is the first athlete of all time to compete in both Alpine skiing and snowboarding at a Winter Olympic Games, and the remarkable feat highlights the 22-year-old’s incredible ability to straddle two events. However, it has also been made possible with the help of two coaches, Justin Reiter and Tomas Bank, though Ledecka joked that her surprise win on the slopes had sparked a debate between the pair.
“Maybe my ski coach will be a little bit pushy after winning the super-G,” Ledecka said. “But my snowboard coach wants me on snowboard. It's like when you have a father and mother who are switching their children.”
To even contemplate the downhill is remarkable given the contrasting physical attributes and skills, and intense levels of training, required. Ledecka, though, is not a normal athlete.
“She’s just incredible,” said Reiter, her snowboard coach. “I've never seen anyone who processes things the way she does. Most of all, she's a winner.”
Reiter and Ledecka are now plotting a route to the podium in the snowboard slalom, which begins on Thursday 22 February.
“If Ester had come to me and said, ‘I want to do the downhill’, I’d have said, ‘Yes, no worries’. It's her career,” explained Reiter. Instead, the idea of competing in the downhill has been consigned to history.
“Skiing gold was a bonus, but a big bonus,” said Bank, Ledecka’s ski coach. “I push her sometimes but this year the main goal is the snowboard. She has a better chance to win another gold in snowboard than downhill.”
Both men believe that Ledecka’s participation in two events is an advantage, not a hindrance. “Snowboard gives her great balance and feeling,” said Bank. “And skiing helps her snowboarding because it's faster. Snowboard must feel like slow motion to her. Her opponents have never been as fast as she's been.
“The only problem with her is that she doesn't want to get off the slope, she always wants more runs.”
Flying on golden wings
Reiter disputes any suggestion that Ledecka has a somehow more relaxed snowboarding attitude when she gets on skis. “It's quite the opposite,” he said. “She is intense in all aspects.”
Banks agreed and admitted that while he hadn’t expected her to win skiing gold, he knew she would have given it everything in an effort to do so.
“She put in a big fight,” he said. “I didn't expect her to win the Olympic super-G, but I knew that she might win something in skiing soon because she is very good.”
Reiter was at the super-G to support Ledecka. “I was with the snowboarder, Michael Trapp (USA), who I also coach, and when everyone thought Anna Veith (AUT) had won, Mike said, ‘Don’t get too comfortable, Ester hasn't come down yet’. He was right.”
The focus now is on Ledecka's bid for snowboard glory when the women’s parallel giant slalom begins. “She is using her gold medal as wings,” said Reiter. “She's just as motivated and frustrated as usual in training.”