Ledecka switches from skis to snowboard for historic double gold

Pyeongchang, South Korea: Ester Ledecka has written a fresh chapter in the history of racing down snow-covered slopes by becoming the first person to win an Olympic gold medal in both alpine skiing and snowboarding.
The Czech skier will leave Pyeongchang as one of the stand-out athletes of the 2018 Games after adding the gold medal in parallel giant slalom to her gold in alpine skiing’s super-g.
No athlete had competed in snowboard and alpine skiing at any Winter Games since snowboarding made its Games debut at Nagano in 1998. Her triumph of winning golds in both sports is one that could well remain unique.
Ledecka’s stunned reaction to winning the women’s super-g last Saturday ahead of favourites including Anna Veith, Tina Weirather and Lindsey Vonn will remain a lasting image of the Pyeongchang Games.
In Saturday’s parallel giant slalom, as world champion and World Cup terminator — she has won five of the seven parallel giant slalom races this season — the gold was hers to lose at Phoenix Snow Park.
Ledecka though could not be touched, beating Germany’s Selina Joergin the final after eliminating some formidable opponents along the way — 2014 Olympic champion Patrizia Kummer of Switzerland, parallel slalom world champion Daniela Ulbing of Austria and Ramona Theresia Hofmeister of Germany, who took bronze.
What’s the difference between the two gold medals, she was asked? “This one is from snowboarding, that’s the difference, otherwise this one is the same,” was the laconic reply.
Ledecka says she plans to continue racing in both sports “as long as I have fun with both,” but it has been a long Olympics for the 22-year-old, who also competed in alpine skiing’s giant slalom.
“Tomorrow is the finish of the Olympics, right? I was here many days, I’m really looking forward to getting home,” she said.
Ledecka also admitted it had been difficult switching mentally from skier to snowboarder, simply because of all the congratulations she was receiving after the super-g.
“But I was thinking, ‘But OK, you have to change to snowboard already’. I had quite a hard time now,” she said.
“Today, 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.”
Ledecka’s victory rather overshadowed the men’s event, where Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland won the gold medal to add to his silver from four years ago in Sochi.
“The last one, the silver, was already like gold,” he said.
“For me it was an incredible day back then in Sochi and today… I don’t know, it’s a different level. I’m still trying to realise (what has happened). It’s awesome.”
Galmarini beat South Korea’s Lee Sang-Ho in the big final, while Sochi bronze medallist Zan Kosir of Slovenia defeated Sylvain Dufour of France for another bronze.
Canada’s Sebastien Toutant captured the first Olympic gold in men’s big air on its Games debut. — dpa