“Ice Prince” Yuzuru Hanyu clinched the first back-to-back men’s Olympic figure skating titles in 66 years on Saturday as snowboarder Ester Ledecka pulled off a major shock as she skied to women’s super-G gold.
Ledecka not only spoiled Anna Veith’s bid for back-to-back super-G golds and overshadowed Vonn’s return to the Olympic stage after an eight-year absence, she also upended the thinking that only the sport’s elite skiers can win at this level.
Ledecka could barely believe it herself when the green light indicated she had bumped Veith out of the gold-medal position by one hundredth of a second to give her country its first Alpine skiing gold medal.
After sitting down for a subsequent news conference still wearing her race goggles, Ledecka acknowledged she had not expected to prevail.
“I was not prepared that I would be at this ceremony”, she explained. “I was looking at the board, thinking they are going to put up there a couple more seconds”.
She is a snowboarder by trade. “I know that she can take a lot of risks”. There must be a lot of pressure on them. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter so I did the best that I could.
No less shocked was Veith, whose fairy-tale ending to a comeback from a major knee injury that required surgery past year was upended in the final reel.
Now comes her next challenge – dealing with the blindingly bright spotlight she never thought possible. Reiter, her snowboard coach, trains with her in Europe when she’s working on snowboarding, then hands her off to a pair of ski coaches when she floats into that world.
American Lindsey Vonn, the favorite entering the race, finished tied for sixth.
The 26th racer to take the course, Ledecka shredded her way through it in a time of 1 minute, 21.11 seconds. Ledecka’s surprise victory in the early afternoon preceding Hanyu was gold medal number 999. Sometimes you get unexpected results and it’s so exciting for those people who can pop in there. “I’m disappointed, but I’m not upset”. Her Olympic medal haul is more modest, though, having missed the 2014 Sochi Games with a knee injury. “And it didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped”. “This was the Olympics”. So it’s definitely shocking. This is someone who has participated in only 19 World Cup skiing races in her entire career – Mikaela Shiffrin, in contrast, has been in 23 this season alone – and only once finished as high as seventh.
PyeongChang 2018 says it has sold over 991,000 tickets so far, exceeding its goal for the 2018 Olympics.
World champion in the parallel giant slalom snowboarding and a former world champion in the parallel slalom, she could yet enjoy unprecedented medal success in the two separate snow sports in Pyeongchang. Because over there, they’ll certainly be asking, “Does this skier really think she’s going to beat all of us?” “It would be very nice (to win both) and I will, for sure, do my best for it”.
It was her first Olympic race since 2010, when she claimed the downhill gold medal and super-G bronze medal.