Ledecka defends Olympic snowboard PGS title, ski racing next

Feb 7, 2022, 10:21 AM | Updated: Feb 8, 2022, 3:16 am
From left, silver medalist Austria's Daniela Ulbing, gold medalist Czech Republic's Ester Ledecka a...

From left, silver medalist Austria's Daniela Ulbing, gold medalist Czech Republic's Ester Ledecka and bronze medalist Slovenia's Gloria Kotnik celebrate during the venue ceremony for the women's parallel giant slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (AP) — In the four years since Ester Ledecka made Olympic history with gold medals in both skiing and snowboarding, she conceded she’s thought about slowing down a little.

Maybe even — dare she say — neglect her snowboard a bit to focus more on the skiing side.

Good thing she kept on shredding.

The standout from the Czech Republic defended her snowboard parallel giant slalom title with a quick final run on a sun-splashed course Tuesday. Next up, a trip to the Alpine venue where she’ll try for a repeat run at history when she attempts to defend her super-G crown on Friday.

“If I had decided to only do skiing, then I would’ve spent four years on the skiing,” Ledecka said. “And I’d be here watching this race and I would feel sad that I couldn’t compete.”

Four years ago in South Korea, Ledecka became the first competitor to win gold in two different sports at the same Winter Games. She has a chance to accomplish the feat again in China.

In addition to super-G, Ledecka plans on racing the downhill (Feb. 15) and combined (Feb. 17). It’s an ambitious task.

“I hope I’ll switch myself very fast and I’ll enjoy it on the ski side too,” she said.

Unlike Alpine skiers, snowboarders race side by side on the giant slalom course in an NCAA Tournament-like format. It starts with 16 riders and narrows down to two who go for gold.

In the gold-medal race, Ledecka, who earned the top seed based on time trials earlier in the day, opened an early lead on Daniela Ulbing of Austria. In her haste to make up ground, Ulbing veered off course, and Ledecka coasted in for the win.

Gloria Kotnik of Slovenia took a surprise bronze (in 137 World Cup starts, she’s never been on the podium). Count Kotnik, who doesn’t ski, as impressed with Ledecka’s exploits in both realms.

“She’s one amazing lady and she’s such a big inspiration for all athletes,” said Kotnik, who welcomed a son in January 2021. “Being the best in two different sports is just amazing.”

This shows just how dialed in Ledecka is these day: She didn’t even know she’d won.

Lost in the hubbub of so many races, and moving down, then back up the hill so many times, she thought she still had another race. At one time, PGS was a two-heat affair, but it was only one for these Olympics. Ledecka had to ask Ulbing if that really was indeed the end of the race.

“She’s like, ‘Oh, it’s done.'” Ledecka said. “I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ OK, good. That’s good.'”

On the men’s side, second-seeded Benjamin Karl of Austria held off Tim Mastnak of Slovenia for the gold. Russian rider Vic Wild picked up the bronze as the No. 9 seed in the bracketed field. Wild, who is from the United States and was granted Russian citizenship in 2012, won gold in the event at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Karl added a gold to his now-complete Olympic medal collection. He already had a silver from the 2010 Vancouver Games and earned bronze in 2014 in the discontinued parallel slalom.

“When I was a child … I wrote on a sheet of paper that one day I would be world champion,” Karl said. “I will be the fastest racer in the world and I’ll be an Olympic champion.”

Mission complete.

Mission just getting started for Ledecka.

The 26-year-old was a surprise winner in the super-G at the Pyeongchang Games. Wearing bib No. 26 that day, she made a late charge when many thought the race was over to wind up on top of the podium.

She had a week to recover before winning the PGS title.

This time, there’s only three days until she climbs into the start gate.

“I’m very happy I’m able to (compete in both), that it’s not the same day, or tomorrow,” Ledecka said. “We’ll work on it. I already had my ski coach … doing some research on the slope. I have some videos, which I will watch on the way to the snowboard ceremony and I will try to switch myself for skier again. We’ll see how it goes.”

One question not to ask Ledecka: which she prefers, snowboarding or skiing. Because, in her heart, she’s equal parts of each and won’t pick one over the other.

“I’m very grateful that I’m able to make it on this kind of a level … Olympics in both sports,” she said. “That’s amazing in itself and this gold medal today, it’s only a bonus.

“For me, it’s natural (to do both). I’ve been doing this since I was a child and just having fun.”


More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


This cover image released by Gallery Books shows "Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and ...
Associated Press

ESPN’s Stephen A Smith has memoir coming in January 2023

NEW YORK (AP) — Dallas Cowboy fans be warned: ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has a memoir coming out next year. 13A, an imprint of Gallery Books, announced Tuesday that Smith’s “Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes” is scheduled for January 2023. According to 13A, Smith will share stories about growing up […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

UK watchdog probes police stop of sprinter dos Santos

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s police watchdog is investigating after armed officers pulled over Portuguese sprinter Ricardo dos Santos’ car in London two years after a traffic stop of the athlete led to accusations of racial profiling. The Metropolitan Police force said officers on a routine patrol pulled over a car in west London early Sunday […]
1 day ago
FILE - Australia's Ellia Green, front, scores a try as Fiji's Raijieli Daveua, tries to defend duri...
Associated Press

Olympic champion Ellia Green finds liberation in transition

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Ellia Green realized as a young child — long before becoming an Olympic champion — that a person’s identity and a gender assigned at birth can be very different things. Now, about 20 years later, one of the stars of Australia’s gold medal-winning women’s rugby sevens team at the 2016 Olympics […]
1 day ago
Arsenal's Gabriel Jesus runs with the ball against Everton during the first half of a pre-season fr...
Associated Press

World Cup Watch: Jesus out to reclaim Brazil’s No. 9 jersey

It’s one of the biggest honors in soccer: Playing as the center forward for Brazil at a World Cup. Gabriel Jesus knows all about that, having been handed the No. 9 jersey at the 2018 tournament in Russia and — as every Brazilian is acutely aware — failing to score a goal. Will he get […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Indian court urged to settle issues that led to FIFA ban

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s top court is expected to take up a government plea to settle issues that led to the national soccer federation’s suspension by FIFA and the possible loss of its hosting rights for the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in October. The FIFA suspension follows the Supreme Court’s appointment of a three-member […]
1 day ago
FILE - Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud throws during the first half in the Rose Bowl NCAA colleg...
Associated Press

AP Top 25 Reality Check: Pouring caution on that optimism

Low expectations rarely disappoint. That’s not to say your favorite team will fail to live up to the promise that comes with landing a spot in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 college football poll presented by Regions Bank that was released Monday. But numbers suggest it is best to sprinkle a healthy amount of […]
1 day ago
Ledecka defends Olympic snowboard PGS title, ski racing next