PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Ester Ledecka became the first person in Winter Olympics history to capture gold medals in both Alpine skiing and snowboarding when she won the snowboard parallel giant slalom on Saturday to go with her stunning Alpine super-G gold.
The 22-year-old Czech was superb throughout and defeated Germany’s Selina Joerg in the final by 0.46 seconds to become the fifth person to win gold in two different sports.
Three of the four athletes to have won in different sports in the past did so in the closely related fields of Nordic combined and cross-country skiing while Russian Anfissa Reszova did so in biathlon and cross country.
Never before has the seemingly unbreachable divide between the old classic of the Games, Alpine skiing, and the popular modern sport of snowboarding been breached by an athlete winning gold in both.
“The best satisfaction is really that I could be here on both and win both,” said Ledecka.
“It was a great feeling, every run was a great feeling, it was something very special. I will think about this moment until the end of my life.”
Germany’s Theresia Ramona Hofmeister won the minor final against Russian Sochi bronze medalist Alena Zavarzina, who fell in both of her last two races, to complete the podium.
While her super-G gold was a complete shock, Ledecka looked in command from the outset in her favored discipline, setting the fastest time in qualifying and handling the pressure to make her historic achievement look almost routine.
Ledecka’s momentous accomplishment of winning unrelated events has seen her lauded by many as the “Queen of the Games”, a moniker she admits was growing on her.
“I don’t feel like that but it sounds good, for sure,” laughed Ledecka, who wore her goggles for the duration of her news conference as she had done after the Alpine skiing triumph.
The Czech admitted it had been difficult to adjust to her primary sport after the whirlwind that followed last week’s triumph on skis.
“It was quite tough to change myself into a snowboarder,” she said. “I had one week for it and until yesterday I didn’t feel good but today I found the snowboarder in me, luckily.
“I love racing. This is the best thing about my job, the racing. I just feel good in my bubble and focus on myself, my riding and I think it helps me.”
For Joerg, the silver medal could be regarded as a long-awaited redemption after she narrowly missed out on a medal in Vancouver eight years ago.
“I have worked so hard to be here, on the podium,” the 30-year-old said.
“I remember... in Vancouver getting fourth place, but today it is amazing for me to win a medal and to be on the podium with Ramona (Hofmeister), it is the best possible thing I could imagine.”
The German silver and bronze matches the feat the country achieved in Sochi in the shorter parallel slalom, although that event was not retained for Pyeongchang.
Joerg also lavished praise on Ledecka, who she believes can drive the sport of snowboarding further and push it to the forefront at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
“She is incredible. A second gold medal here, one in skiing, one in snowboarding. I have never heard of that before, is it even possible?” asked Joerg, who is ranked third in the world behind Ledecka and Hofmeister.
“Just doing one sport is a full-time job.”
Despite her unique achievement, Ledecka believes there is more to come.
“I can push myself further and there are still mistakes in skiing and snowboarding and I want to improve myself,” she said. “There are no limits.”
Additional reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by John O'Brien and Clare Fallon