Winter Olympics: History-maker Ester Ledecka wins gold in two sports

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Ledecka claims double gold with snowboard slalom victory

What do you do when you can't choose between skiing and snowboarding?

Well, if you're Ester Ledecka, you do both. You even take your indecision to Olympic level and win double gold.

The 22-year-old Czech had never even stood on an alpine skiing World Cup podium until last Saturday morning when she took the greatest prize in the sport, stunning even herself to win Olympic super G gold.

But her favoured event was still to come and she showed no sign of nerves to add the parallel giant slalom title to her growing collection exactly a week later - becoming the first woman to claim gold medals in two sports at a Winter Olympics.

"I thought there must be some mistake, I thought they'd switch the times for someone else's!" Ledecka said after her skiing triumph.

She didn't even own the skis on which she raced - her equipment borrowed from giant slalom gold medallist Mikaela Shiffrin.

But no such inexperience was on show seven days later as she defeated Germany's Selina Joerg to win her second gold of the Games.

Shock skiing success

In the super G, Ledecka denied defending champion Anna Veith what seemed a certain successive gold by just one hundredth of a second, with the Austrian having already started to give celebratory interviews.

But not only did she deprive Veith of that much-desired second gold, her result pushed back two-time Olympic medallist Lindsey Vonn into sixth, after the American - competing at her first Olympics since 2010 - made a costly mistake.

No-one could have predicted the path the race would take, with BBC commentator Matt Chilton describing Ledecka's victory as "one of the most astonishing Olympic stories of all time".

But it was perhaps Vonn who summed it up best, saying: "I wish I had as much athleticism as she has to hop from sport to sport and win everything.

"Unfortunately I'm only good at ski racing and she still beat me!"

Already a star in snowboarding

Ester Ledecka
Multi-talented: Ledecka in action on her way to her second gold medal of the Games

Ledecka only started on the skiing circuit in 2016 with her super G World Cup best just 19th - coming in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Lake Louise last season - but snowboarding is where it's truly at for her.

As the world champion and with five World Cup titles to her name this season, the parallel giant slalom is the only event in which you'd have expected heavy-favourite Ledecka to be winning gold prior to the start of the Games.

Even silver medallist Veith - whose fairytale return from injury was dashed at the very end by Ledecka - wasn't aware of her skiing abilities, admitting she didn't know "how strong" the Czech was.

Ledecka became a double junior world champion in the parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom in 2013 while still at high school, before making her Olympic debut in Sochi the following year.

It was 2015, however, when the world really took notice as she was crowned parallel slalom world champion for the first time, before adding the parallel giant slalom title to her haul in 2017.

But 2018 has been her best year yet.

Asked whether her snowboarding prowess helped her before her gold-medal run on skis, she said: "I took confidence from snowboarding.

"I was standing at the start and I said to myself, 'This is my dream, at the last Olympics you were here on just a snowboard, now you're here on skis, so go do your best run'.

"From skiing for snowboard, I take the fast speed, I'm not afraid of the speed. I just focus on riding downhill, that's all. Every time.

"I've just got on with it since I was a little child and throughout my career I've had luck in meeting good people, and I have a great team. They're very supportive and professional and maybe that's why I'm up here right now."

The winner's podium from the women's super G
Anna Veith (Austria, silver) Ester Ledecka (Czech Republic, gold) and Tina Weirather (Liechtenstein, bronze) on the super G podium

History accomplished

Way before her second gold medal-winning run, Ledecka had already made history in qualification, becoming the first athlete to compete in both snowboard and skiing at the Olympics.

But in climbing to the top step of the podium yet again, she has elevated the scale of her feat to another level entirely.

She is the fifth athlete to win in two sports at one Games and the first in unrelated events, with the previous double wins coming in Nordic events.

"Today was a big day for snowboard Ester!" she said after winning her second gold.

"Today was something very special - I'll think about this moment until the end of my life."

But the Ledecka family are no strangers to success at the Olympics - her grandfather Jan Klapac won bronze at the 1964 Games in Innsbruck before winning silver four years later in Grenoble for the then-Czechoslovakia ice hockey team.

Ester's Pyeongchang gold medals completes the set for the Ledeckas but, at just 22 years old, you sense there is plenty more to come.

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Winter Olympics 2018: Snowboard specialist Ester Ledecka shocks rivals to win super G gold

'An astonishing achievement' - analysis

Ski Sunday commentator Ed Leigh: "It's like being great at badminton and tennis. While the theory is the same, the strategy and technique are polar opposites.

"It's not like Ester grew up just doing alpine, she has always done both codes and has somehow perfected both sports.

"Her achievement in the super G was astonishing."

BBC Sport skiing expert Graham Bell: "It's probably the best story of these Games. It's hard enough doing one discipline in alpine skiing.

"What Ester does is she trains three weeks alpine skiing then three weeks snowboarding. She has done that her entire career.

"She didn't want to give either up because she loved it so much. It is a massive shock because she has never even placed on a World Cup podium. To do two completely different sports is incredible."

GB snowboarder Zoe Gillings-Brier: "To carry on doing both skiing and snowboarding from such a young age, and to become brilliant at both, that's astounding.

"She'll need two different muscle groups for her two sports, so she'll need to train both of those at the same time."

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