Do you know who Ester Ledecka is?

Before Saturday’s Olympic women’s super-G race, the 22-year-old Czech athlete was more widely known for her talents on a snowboard than her exploits on skis. After all, she has only started in 19 World Cup races in her career and hasn’t finished better than 19th in a World Cup super-G. All that changed on Saturday when she pulled off the one upset to rule them all and beat the best female skiers in the world by the slimmest of margins to take Olympic super-G gold.

Ledecka is the reigning parallel giant slalom gold medalist and parallel slalom silver medalist from last season’s snowboarding World Championships.

Yes, you read that correctly. Ledecka is a snowboarder. A snowboarder is now an Olympic gold medalist in alpine skiing.

By the time Ledecka took to the Jeongseon course with bib 26, American Olympic broadcaster NBC had already called the race for Austria’s Anna Veith, declared that nobody after bib 20 had a chance at a medal, cued the Olympic fanfare, rolled the dramatic b-roll footage, and cut to men’s figure skating.

Open mouth. Insert foot.

To their credit, NBC did come back to Jeongseon later in the broadcast to show Ledecka’s gold medal run, but everyone knows that in ski racing, it ain’t over till it’s over.

Ledecka finished her run, slid to a stop, and stared blankly at the scoreboard, not believing what she saw. Image Credit: GEPA Pictures/ Matic Klansek

Ledecka is much more than she appears on the surface, however. On skis at age two and a snowboard at age five, she has fostered a love of both sports and, simply put, just could not bring herself to choose between the two and has competed in both ever since.

Ledecka only started racing on the alpine World Cup in 2016 and has been a solid top-30 performer in the downhill and super-G races she has entered in between her snowboard events. A winning downhill training run followed up by a seventh-place finish in Lake Louise, Canada, to kick off this season was the first time she really started to turn a few heads in the ski racing world.

Post-race reports have pointed to a favorable wind and the fact that Ledecka ran on a pair of American Mikaela Shiffrin’s skis as factors in her victory, but make no mistake: It was Ledecka’s skiing that won her super-G gold.

Ledecka crossed the line after a wild run that looked to be on the verge of disaster at several points to a finish clock that had her in the lead by 0.01 seconds ahead of Veith. At first, Ledecka was sure that something with the timing had gone awry.

“I was wondering what had just happened,” she shared. “Is this a mistake? I was thinking, ‘OK, they’re going to change the time, I’m going to wait for a little bit then they’re going to put some more seconds on.’ I was just staring at the board and nothing was happening and everyone was screaming and I started to think, ‘OK, this is weird.'”

Before her miraculous super-G performance, Ledecka did not have plans to compete in the women’s downhill — which has actually been her better event on the World Cup — because of the fast-approaching snowboard events. Needless to say, all of that might change in the coming days.

“Until today, I thought I was a better snowboarder,” she said. “I’m sure my ski coach will be a little bit pushy on (me doing) the downhill but my snowboard coach wants me on the snowboard. So it’s like when you have a father and mother who are switching their children. My skiing and snowboarding coaches are switching me every time. I’m really looking forward to the snowboard and I think I should already switch on ‘snowboard girl’ now. It would be very nice (to win both) and I will for sure do my best for it.”

Although missing out on an Olympic gold medal by 0.01 seconds definitely stings, Veith’s silver tasted just as sweet as gold. The Austrian star and defending Olympic super-G champion has had serious doubts as to whether she would ever return to the top of the sport after suffering a devastating knee injury in the fall of 2015 that she is still recovering from.

“I won everything today because after two years, I never knew whether I could get back into shape again (after my injury) or ever get the chance to go to the Olympics,” she admitted. “It was already a success for me just to be be here and now I have a medal; it’s unbelievable.”

“First, I couldn’t believe it had happened but afterwards (to lose the gold by) one-hundredth of a second, it was just a big surprise,” she continued. “I thought, ‘Is this true or not?’ It’s just one-hundredth of a second, but this is our sport. I’m happy with the silver and Ester deserved gold.”

Bronze medalist Tina Weirather delivered Liechtenstein’s first Olympic alpine medal since Paul Frommelt won bronze in the Calgary 1988 slalom.

“I skied really well,” she said of her performance. “There were plenty of racers today that had no chance because of the wind. You want a fair race. Today you needed the luck. Today I was lucky.”

The Olympic women’s super-G podium. Image Credit: GEPA Pictures/Matic Klansek

American Speed Queen Lindsey Vonn ran with bib one and was enjoying a solid run until a sizeable mistake in the final turn towards the finish cost her precious tenths of a second and a shot at another Olympic medal. Vonn eventually settled for a tie for sixth with Italy’s Federica Brignone.

“Number one is always really difficult, especially in super-G,” Vonn said in the finish. “We haven’t been on this trail yet this year. I think it was a pretty big disadvantage, to be honest. There was a little bit of fluff left on the course and unfortunately I got some headwind in the middle section, the winds were changing for every racer but I attacked. I gave it everything and I have no regrets. I made a mistake on the bottom but, you know, that’s what happens in super-G.”

Following Vonn was a trio of Americans as Breezy Johnson, Laurenne Ross, and Alice McKennis finished in 14th, 15th, and 16th place, respectively.

The women now begin downhill training runs ahead of the Olympic women’s downhill on Feb. 21.


Top 10

1. Ester Ledecka (CZE) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Anna Veith (AUT) – Head/Head/Head
3. Tina Weirather (LIE) – Head/Head/Head
4. Lara Gut (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
5. Johanna Schnarf (ITA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
6. Lindsey Vonn (USA) – Head/Head/Head
6. Federica Brignone (ITA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
7. Cornelia Huetter (AUT) – Head/Head/Head
8. Michelle Gisin (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
9. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) – Stoeckli/Lange


Official Results

Rank Bib FIS Code Name Year Nation Total Time Diff. FIS Points
 1  26  155763 LEDECKA Ester 1995 CZE  1:21.11  0.00
 2  15  55947 VEITH Anna 1989 AUT  1:21.12  +0.01  0.13
 3  7  355050 WEIRATHER Tina 1989 LIE  1:21.22  +0.11  1.46
 4  5  516138 GUT Lara 1991 SUI  1:21.23  +0.12  1.60
 5  3  296427 SCHNARF Johanna 1984 ITA  1:21.27  +0.16  2.13
 6  1  537544 VONN Lindsey 1984 USA  1:21.49  +0.38  5.06
 6  11  297601 BRIGNONE Federica 1990 ITA  1:21.49  +0.38  5.06
 8  19  56128 HUETTER Cornelia 1992 AUT  1:21.54  +0.43  5.73
 9  16  516284 GISIN Michelle 1993 SUI  1:21.57  +0.46  6.13
 10  14  205218 REBENSBURG Viktoria 1989 GER  1:21.62  +0.51  6.79
 11  13  298323 GOGGIA Sofia 1992 ITA  1:21.65  +0.54  7.19
 12  4  296729 FANCHINI Nadia 1986 ITA  1:21.88  +0.77  10.25
 13  17  425929 MOWINCKEL Ragnhild 1992 NOR  1:22.00  +0.89  11.85
 14  28  6535455 JOHNSON Breezy 1996 USA  1:22.14  +1.03  13.71
 15  12  538573 ROSS Laurenne 1988 USA  1:22.17  +1.06  14.11
 16  27  538685 MCKENNIS Alice 1989 USA  1:22.20  +1.09  14.51
 17  6  516319 SUTER Corinne 1994 SUI  1:22.24  +1.13  15.05
 18  9  55970 SCHMIDHOFER Nicole 1989 AUT  1:22.30  +1.19  15.85
 19  20  197497 MIRADOLI Romane 1994 FRA  1:22.36  +1.25  16.64
 20  22  197295 PIOT Jennifer 1992 FRA  1:22.38  +1.27  16.91
 21  18  56088 TIPPLER Tamara 1991 AUT  1:22.50  +1.39  18.51
 22  10  197383 GAUTHIER Tiffany 1993 FRA  1:22.56  +1.45  19.31
 23  23  107613 GRENIER Valerie 1996 CAN  1:22.77  +1.66  22.10
 24  25  506701 HOERNBLAD Lisa 1996 SWE  1:22.79  +1.68  22.37
 25  30  565320 FERK Marusa 1988 SLO  1:23.18  +2.07  27.56
 26  33  435334 GASIENICA-DANIEL Maryna 1994 POL  1:23.21  +2.10  27.96
 27  8  516248 FLURY Jasmine 1993 SUI  1:23.30  +2.19  29.16
 28  2  196928 WORLEY Tessa 1989 FRA  1:23.54  +2.43  32.36
 29  24  107387 CRAWFORD Candace 1994 CAN  1:23.69  +2.58  34.35
 30  32  375018 COLETTI Alexandra 1983 MON  1:24.01  +2.90  38.61
 31  35  45331 SMALL Greta 1995 AUS  1:24.09  +2.98  39.68
 32  31  705423 VLHOVA Petra 1995 SVK  1:24.26  +3.15  41.94
 33  36  155699 PAULATHOVA Katerina 1993 CZE  1:24.48  +3.37  44.87
 34  38  565373 ROBNIK Tina 1991 SLO  1:24.49  +3.38  45.01
 35  34  705394 KANTOROVA Barbara 1992 SVK  1:25.30  +4.19  55.79
 36  43  465098 CAILL Ania Monica 1995 ROU  1:25.74  +4.63  61.65
 37  29  107583 REMME Roni 1996 CAN  1:25.90  +4.79  63.78
 38  41  6000000 SIMADER Sabrina 1998 KEN  1:26.25  +5.14  68.44
 39  37  115115 BARAHONA Noelle 1990 CHI  1:27.16  +6.05  80.56
 40  40  65117 VANREUSEL Kim 1998 BEL  1:27.60  +6.49  86.42
 41  39  536481 SCHLEPER Sarah 1979 MEX  1:27.93  +6.82  90.81
 42  42  715171 MUZAFERIJA Elvedina 1999 BIH  1:27.97  +6.86  91.34
 43  45  695108 KNYSH Olha 1995 UKR  1:30.60  +9.49  126.36
Did not finish
 21  206668 WEIDLE Kira 1996 GER
Did not start
 44  665009 SHKANOVA Maria 1989 BLR
Article Tags: Premium Olympics

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Sean Higgins
Senior Editor
- A Lake Tahoe native and University of Vermont graduate, Higgins was a member of the Catamounts' 2012 NCAA title winning squad and earned first team All-American honors in 2013. Prior to coming to Ski Racing Media, he coached U14s for the Squaw Valley Ski Team.
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