PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Czech Ester Ledecka, who made history on Saturday by winning gold in snowboard’s parallel giant slalom to go with her super-G victory in Alpine skiing last week, admits she has a split personality.
There is the persona she calls ‘Ester the skier’ and there is ‘Ester the snowboarder’.
Last week, after she shocked the Alpine ski world by her unexpected gold medal in super-G, Ledecka was afraid she might struggle to find her snowboarding half.
“After the super-G there was a lot of people congratulating, congratulating, congratulating. It was nice of course but I was thinking ‘but you have to change into a snowboarder now’.
“Then I was just standing there today at the start and suddenly the snowboarding girl showed up.
“For sure (there are two personalities) and today is a big day for snowboard Ester,” she said with a grin.
Like thousands of children around the world, the young Ledecka was advised at an early age to concentrate on one sport but one thing the two Esters have in common is a single-minded determination to follow their heart.
“I chose to do both. A lot of people were telling me that it is not possible to get to the top in both and obviously it is not easy,” she told a small group of reporters.
Her determination to prove the sceptics wrong was reflected in her pride at having succeeded — in such extraordinary fashion — in both.
Asked which of her medals gave her the greatest satisfaction the 22-year-old Ledecka said, without the slightest hesitation: “The best satisfaction is really that I could be here on both and win both.”
Over time she says she learnt that she could not go flat out in training in both sports, even though she would have happily spent eight hours a day on each one.
“I have had many days where I have skied and then snowboarded but my coaches don’t want me to do that anymore because it is quite rough for my body to go from one to another.
“But it is a great thing that I could be here in both sports and enjoy a career in both sports,” she said.
Her snowboard coach, American Justin Reiter, said that her ability to restrain herself had been the key to her success.
“This year she prioritised her health over her training -– in the past she didn’t rest enough so this year we managed everything as perfectly as can be. And she is going home with two gold medals in her pocket,” he said.
Ledecka also benefited from an ability to quickly re-focus on her original goal at Pyeongchang — to win in snowboard.
“We came here with the goal to medal in snowboarding. If she had absorbed all the energy from the super-G and just checked off the Olympic medal, we would be having a different conversation today,” he said.
“But because of who Ester is and the way that she functions, the super-G wasn’t enough for her. She was focused on her goal. She is an incredible person, once in a lifetime, and she has got a great heart and head, she is an incredible human being,” he said.
Ledecka plans an early night, with no partying, after her second gold and she will need her energy as she has snowboarding World Cup races in Turkey to come soon before heading to Are, Sweden, for the Alpine World Cup finals in mid-March.
It is a tough schedule but one she intends to continue with.
“My plan is to stay with my heart and so for now I think I will do both sports because I love both and love to do both”.
Editing by Clare Fallon