Best of 2019: Ester Ledecka – What comes after impossible?
Czech skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka talks to Pete Sharland about the next steps you can take after achieving what is supposed to be impossible.
Ester Ledecka is far too polite to roll her eyes but it’s impossible to miss the wry smile that emerges when Pyeongchang in 2018 is brought up to her.
It’s hard not to, 18 months on it’s still an astonishingly absurd achievement that warrants discussion.
For those who don’t remember, Ledecka created one of the most memorable and ridiculous moments in Olympic history.
Ledecka was one of the favourites in the snowboarding event coming into Pyeongchang but she also competed in the Alpine Skiing.
There she took gold, yes gold, in the Super-G, a nail-biting 0.01 seconds ahead of 2014 champion Anna Veith.
Ledecka was visibly stunned at the finish line and later revealed that she thought there was a mistake with the timings. For reference, in the Super-G World Cup that season she finished 47th overall.
Following up that upset with gold in the Parallel Giant Slalom meant Ledecka became the first person to ever win two golds at the same Winter Olympics using two different types of equipment.
For Ledecka though, nothing has changed, she’s still the same smiling kid who has been on both skis and snowboards as long as she can remember.
“I don’t think about it in this way. It’s for sure a great life,” she says when asked how things have altered since then.
"It’s pretty much the same though because for me I’m always around my people, my team and we’re travelling together and I don’t get to do normal stuff like a normal girl my age,"
“I’m not so often at home. I’m around my people and they’re always the same, it’s always the same atmosphere, I’m still riding down the hill and having fun.”
As relaxed and laid-back as Ledecka is, there’s an inner steel that fuels her, she’s more than aware of what the doubters say but the word fluke is not in her vocabulary.
“I think there are still many people who think this was only a one-time thing when it happened so now I have to prove that it wasn’t a one-time thing,
“That it’s possible more times and to be at the highest level in snowboard and skis continually so I think I have a lot of work in front of me but I’m looking forward to it and I hope I’ll achieve that.”
Ester LedeckaGetty Images
What’s remarkable listening to Ledecka talking about the dual-life she has to lead is how she switches between the two.
Even after doing it for so long Ledecka admits that “it’s always a little bit hard but I have exercises to change myself as quick as possible, usually it takes about three or four days until I’m very confident in the other sport.
“But in the season usually I don’t have this luxury I normally only have one day or sometimes not even that!
“So I have to switch very fast but I’ve learnt through the years some way to do it, it’s not that easy every time.”
It’s astonishing to try and imagine what it would be like competing with the very best in the world in one discipline, and a day or two later do the exact same thing against the same elite level of competition in a completely discipline, yet this is the life Ledecka leads. It’s not hard to see why she is one of the more popular competitors on the circuit.
One of Ledecka’s biggest fans is the skier whose skis she borrowed for that Super-G run in South Korea, Mikaela Shiffrin.
“I think it’s so cool,” Shiffrin says with a huge grin when asked about Ledecka still competing in both ski and snowboard.
“I think she’s hilarious and super-cool and really great at both sports.
" In a way people assume you’re supposed to fit into one category or one box and that’s all you’re allowed to do. How dare you think you could do more than that. "
“I’ve faced that when I’ve talked about racing multiple disciplines or venturing into speed and actually having success.
“But people are like ‘well you’re not supposed to do that, you’re a slalom skier’ and for her it’s like ‘you’re not supposed to be good at skiing, you’re a snowboarder,’
: Mikaela Shiffrin of USA talks to Ester Ledecka of Czech Republic during the Ladies' Super G event at the Lake Louise Audi FIS Ski World Cup on December 2, 2018, at the Lake Louise Ski Resort in Lake Louise, AB.Getty Images
“I feel like putting those two together, especially in this atmosphere where skiers and snowboarders are supposed to hate each other and we have one who’s crushing both, I’m like come on you guys let’s cut down the labels and have a good time.”
That’s certainly the message the laidback Ledecka is preaching, all she wants this season is “to be faster on skis and faster on snowboard and enjoy the life, that’s pretty much it!”
Sometimes we have a habit of overcomplicating life, it’s always better to just take a step back and not overreact to things, just like this remarkable 24-year-old double Olympic champion.