PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Ester Ledecka’s day — and probably her life — had just taken a surreal turn.
The Czech, ranked 43rd this season in Alpine super-G, had expected to finish Saturday’s ski race and head off quietly to practise for what she thought was her stronger Olympic event, on her snowboard.
Instead she found herself holding court before the world’s media after winning the super-G by one-hundredth of a second to pull off one of the greatest shocks in Winter Olympic history.
“Till today I thought that I’m a better snowboarder,” the 22-year-old told reporters.
“Actually I would rather go riding snowboard now. I don’t want to be rude — you are all great — but I didn’t really expect that I would be sitting here. I should have already had, like, three runs on snowboard now.”
Asked why she was still wearing her ski goggles at a news conference, she explained: “Because I was not as prepared as the other girls that I would be at the (victory) ceremony, and I don’t have no make-up.”
Though she won the 2017 world championship in parallel giant slalom snowboard, Ledecka was until now seen only as a second-tier skier. The very fact of becoming the first person to compete in both disciplines at an Olympic Games seemed remarkable enough.
With all the pre-race super-G favourites starting in positions 1-20, Austrian Anna Veith took a seat in the leader’s chair at the foot of the course after her run and was taking phone calls as she prepared to celebrate her second successive Olympic win in the event.
Then Ledecka, drawn 26th, began her run — unspectacular at first but gathering pace and drawing a roaring crescendo from the crowd as she ripped up the lower half of the course to usurp the shell-shocked Veith.
The Czech looked stunned at the finish, and told reporters later that it had not felt like an especially brilliant run, saying: “I thought I was doing a lot of mistakes.”
Ledecka now faces a quandary over whether to stick to her original plan and concentrate on the snowboarding, or think about going in the women’s downhill Alpine ski race on Wednesday.
“Maybe my skiing coach will be a little bit pushy after today.” (Editing by Clare Fallon)