Duel-sport phenomenon Ester Ledecka was one of the stars of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
As the Czech athlete entered PyeongChang, South Korea as the favorite for gold in the parallel giant slalom snowboard competition, she shocked the world – and herself – when she won gold in the super-G alpine ski event.
When Ledecka won gold in snowboarding eight days later, the Prague native – who enjoys playing beach volleyball and windsurfing in her spare time – became the first woman to win gold at the Winter Olympics in two different sports during the same Games.
Ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Ledecka remains a top contender in alpine skiing and snowboarding.
When she’s not skiing, Ester Ledecka is the most dominant snowboarder in the world
Even dividing her time between two sports, Ledecka remains the most dominant snowboard racer in the world. Since the PyeongChang Games, the two-time Olympic gold medalist has competed in 14 Snowboard World Cup competitions, finishing 13 times on the podium.
While her fellow alpine skiers are currently in Val d’Isère, France for this weekend’s downhill and super-G (a race in which Ledecka is the defending champion), Ledecka, 26, s’ instead traveled to Carezza, Italy, to compete in his first Snowboard World Cup in over a year.
“I really want to do it all, but unfortunately the FIS calendar doesn’t see that someone could do both,” said Ledecka. Reuters earlier this month.
After setting the fastest qualifying time on Wednesday, Ledecka won her first three head-to-head races in the bracket-style parallel giant slalom competition. In the final against the Austrian snowboarder Daniela ulbing, Ledecka fell on the seventh corner and finished second. (The video of the final between Ledecka and Ulbing is embedded above.)
While Ledecka’s success in alpine skiing at PyeongChang came as a shock, don’t be surprised if she repeats the feat in Beijing.
As for her progress as an alpine skier, Ledecka has only continued to improve since 2018. She finished 10th overall at the World Cup in 2020 and 2021, helped by five combined podiums.
In alpine skiing, the races are organized in such a way that the best performing athletes compete in the top 20, which is one of the reasons why Ledecka’s 2018 Olympic result – obtained with bib # 26 – was such a surprise.
But thanks to Ledecka’s continued success in alpine skiing, she certainly won’t be competing with such a large number of bibs in Beijing.
Ledecka also believes she has an advantage heading into the next Winter Olympics. In the speed events of alpine skiing – Ledecka’s specialty – it is rare for less established skiers to succeed on trails where veteran athletes have competed year after year.
But with the test events in Yanqing, China canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no elite skier has raced on the Olympic tracks.
“Usually all the other girls are a lot more experienced downhill than I am and now they’re at the same level as me so I’m going to try to use it to my advantage,” said Ledecka. Reuters.
The NBC Olympics research team contributed to this story.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC