Ledecka defends Olympic snowboard PGS title, ski racing next
China Daily

Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic celebrates on the podium. [Photo/Reuters]

Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic defended her Olympic snowboard parallel giant slalom title with a quick final run on a sun-splashed course Tuesday.

Now, she's preparing a switch over to ski racing to try and defend her super-G crown on Friday.

Four years ago in Pyeongchang, Republic of 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 once again in China. The women's super-G ski race is scheduled for Friday at the Yanqing Alpine Skiing Centre.

In the gold-medal race, the top-seeded Ledecka opened an early lead on Daniela Ulbing, putting pressure on the Austrian snowboarder along the side-by-side course at the Genting Snow Park. Ulbing made a mistake up top and later veered off course. Gloria Kotnik of Slovenia earned the bronze.

As for why Ledecka didn't celebrate much after the win, turns out, she thought she still had another race. She didn't realize she'd won gold. PGS used to be a two-heat affair, but it was only one for the Olympics.

"Super happy," she said.

On the men's side, second-seeded Benjamin Karl of Austria held off Tim Mastnak of Slovenia for the gold. Russian athlete 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 Olympic medal collection. He already possessed 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 accomplished.

But the mission is just getting started for Ledecka.

The 26-year-old Ledecka 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.

Just don't ask her to pick between snowboarding or skiing.

"If I had decided to only do skiing, then I would've spent four years on skiing, and I'd be here watching this race and I would feel sad that I couldn't compete," she said.

It just wasn't the day for Zan Kosir, who has three Olympic medals and was trying to break a tie with Shaun White, Jamie Anderson and Kelly Clark-now Karl, too-for most among snowboarders. But the Slovenian was eliminated early. He just didn't have his usual strength.

Kosir said he spent 11 days in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 following his arrival in China. He was cleared three days ago.

"It's difficult because there's nothing to do," said the 37-year-old Kosir, who has earned two bronze medals and a silver in his career. "You're locked in the room. You have no information."

The day also ended early for Swiss snowboarder Patrizia Kummer, who lost in her first heat. The 2014 gold medalist chose to spend 21 days in quarantine upon arriving for the Olympics instead of getting a COVID-19 vaccination.

Kummer worked out in her room to stay focused and didn't see the isolation as a factor in her loss to Julia Dujmovits of Austria.

"In quarantine, I did fast stuff. What I need on the slope is quick feet," Kummer said. "When you're flexible in your thinking, it's really easy to do that. You just have to have the good mindset."

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