ZHANGJIAKOU (China), February 8: Dual winter sports champion Ester Ledecka successfully defended her snowboard parallel giant slalom title at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday — even if she did not immediately realise it.
The 26-year-old Czech became the first woman to win a gold medal in two different sports at a Winter Olympics when she took skiing and snowboarding titles in Pyeongchang four years ago.
She won snowboard parallel giant slalom gold again in the Chinese capital when she cruised to victory in the final against Austria’s Daniela Ulbing.
But Ledecka did not immediately realise that she was an Olympic champion again.
“I was concentrating on each run and I was still thinking about what I could do better in the next run,” she said.
“And then I realised that there wasn’t going to be any other run.”
Ledecka will now switch to skis as she attempts to stamp her name all over the Beijing Games.
She will compete in the women’s super-G starting Friday, before going for gold in downhill and Alpine combined.
“For me it’s natural and I’ve been doing this since I was a child,” she said of competing in both snowboarding and skiing.
Asked whether she would grab her skis or her snowboard if she was in a hurry, she hedged her bets and said: “I’ll just call my tech guy — he’s strong, he can carry both.”
Ledecka will not have much time to switch from one sport to the other.
At the Pyeongchang Olympics she had a week between events but in Beijing she will have only two full days to practice.
She admitted there was “a very unique and funny situation” in her head after Tuesday’s final.
“Part of my head is still racing right now on this course, and the other side of my head is already trying to get through the line of the skiing course,” she said.
“And then a small part is celebrating in between.”
Slovenia’s Gloria Kotnik took bronze at Genting Snow Park, where a small crowd of local fans watched the fast and furious action under a clear blue sky.
Austria’s Benjamin Karl won gold in the men’s competition, beating Slovenia’s Tim Mastnak in the final.
The 36-year-old Karl claimed silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics but had never won gold to go with his five world titles.
“As a child of 10 I wrote that I would be world champion, I would be the fastest racer in the world and I would be Olympic champion,” said Karl.
“The last one was missing and I did everything in the last years to prepare for the Olympics.”
American-born Russian Vic Wild, a double gold medallist at the 2014 Sochi Games, took the men’s bronze medal.
Slovenia’s Zan Kosir, who could have become the most successful Olympic snowboarder ever if he had claimed a fourth medal, lost in the round of 16.
Kosir tested positive for Covid after arriving in Beijing and spent 11 days in isolation, only being able to practice three days before the competition. (AFP)