Snowboard sensation Ester Ledecká wins first Czech gold medal at Beijing Winter Olympics

Ester Ledecká

Ester Ledecká won the Czech Republic’s first gold medal at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games on Tuesday after dominating the Women's snowboard parallel giant slalom. It is the third Olympic gold medal overall for the 26-year-old, who also won in the same category and in the women’s Super-G event at the previous Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Ledecká was seen as the the Czech Republic’s main favorite for a medal ahead of Beijing and she made it look easy on Tuesday as she cruised through the Women's parallel giant slalom qualification round, finishing in first place, more than 2.5 seconds ahead of second placed Ramona Theresia Hofmeister from Germany.

What followed was a four-stage elimination round where 16 of the snowboarders who performed best in the qualifiers gradually faced each other off in 1v1 races down the slope in Genting Snow Park which is lined with a snow wall designed to look like the Great Wall of China.

Ester Ledecká | Photo: Roman Vondrouš,  ČTK

Ledecká kept cool as she gradually knocked out Italy’s Nadya Ochner, Poland’s Aleksandra Krol and Michelle Dekker from the Netherlands, with each of her opponents either going off track or falling.

The final round saw the Czech face off with 23-year-old Austrian Daniela Ulbing, who had already won two parallel slalom races in this year’s World Cup season. The last time the two had raced each other was at the World Cup event in Carezza, Italy, where Ulbing took first place.

It looked like it was going to be close in the initial stages of the race, with Ledecká in a tight lead. But with just four slalom poles remaining, Ulbing made a mistake and swerved off piste leaving Ledecká to cruise over the finish line and take the first gold medal for this year’s Czech Olympic team.

Speaking to Czech Radio after her victory, she said that it felt “pretty fine” to win her third Olympic gold medal.

“The qualifier went fine. I think I had two good rounds and then was quite consistent in the finals, so I am happy that I was able to ride as I wanted and remain relatively focused. It was fine. I think it ended up going pretty well.”

Daniela Ulbing,  Ester Ledecká  (right) | Photo: Roman Vondrouš,  ČTK

Ledecká will now be switching her snowboard for skis as she prepares for defending her other gold medal at Friday’s Super-G event taking place at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre, another of Beijing’s three Olympic zones located about one-and-a-half hour’s drive from where the snowboard events are taking place.

“We will see how it goes. We just have two days to prepare. I’ll do everything that I can to pack up all the stuff I have in my room and I hope the guys will help me, because that will probably be the hardest part of the transfer. We are set to go to the ceremony in the evening, so I hope I get to bed early, because I’m starting my training for the Super-G tomorrow already.”

A snowboarder first and foremost, Ester Ledecká’s victory four years ago at the Super-G in Pyeongchang came as a surprise to many Czechs. Her last major victory at such an event came two years ago in Val-d'Isère, France. However, she was considered a much bigger underdog at the previous olympics.