2018 sensation Ledecká to carry Czech hopes at Winter Olympics

Ester Ledecká

Many Czechs will be glued to their screens in the coming weeks, with the Winter Olympics due to get underway in Beijing on Friday. Among the country’s medal hopefuls is Ester Ledecká, whose unprecedented success was the biggest story at the last games four years ago.

Four years ago in PyeongChang Ester Ledecká stunned the world. As well as taking gold in her original main sport of snowboarding, the Czech sensationally came first in super-G skiing.

Nobody had even competed in those two events at the same Winter Olympics before, never mind winning them.

In Beijing Ledecká will be the Czech Republic’s main medal hopeful, and was named by CNN as one of its 25 athletes to watch.

However, the 26-year-old has been trying to play down expectations and was reported to have even banned the word “Olympics” in her camp.

Ester Ledecká | Photo: SLCR

“It’s of equal importance to all the other competitions this season. I’ll do the best I can.

“The pressure isn’t greater or lesser than at other events.

“Imagine that you get to work and everybody expects you to be the best in the world at your job. That’s what’s expected of me in every competition.

“I also expect it of myself, because I want to be great. That’s why I train.

“So the pressure is there, but it’s not greater than at World Cup events.”

Ledecká will begin her parallel giant slalom snowboard title defence next Tuesday before putting on her skis three days later.

Apart from Ledecká, other Czechs to watch out for will be in the speed skating arena.

Martina Sáblíková, who is now 34, already has six Olympic gold medals to her name. She has been beset by various problems this season but says she is raring to go in China.

Martina Sáblíková | Photo: Bjarte Hetland,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY 3.0

Sáblíková’s friend Nikola Zdráhalová, aged 25, is the only speed skater to have qualified for five different distances.

One more medal hopeful to watch out for is 25-year-old Markéta Davidová in biathlon. Her biggest success to date has been gold at last year’s World Championships.

Eva Samková, a snowboard cross star who topped the podium in Sochi eight years ago and came third four years later, will not be taking part in Beijing. The 28-year-old broke both ankles in a competition late last year.

For their part, the Czech ice hockey team have been hit by multiple Covid infections during preparations for the Winter Olympics. In fact they were so shorthanded that they had to employ an equipment manager in goal during practice in China this week.

Four years ago the Czech team brought home four gold, two silver and three bronze medals from PyeongChang.

The company Gracenote, known for its Olympics predictions, says the Czech Republic are likely to return from Beijing with one gold and two bronze medals.