Olympian becomes first woman to win gold in 2 separate sports at Winter Games
Winning an Olympic gold medal is quite a feat.
Winning more than one gold medal in the Olympics is something few athletes ever accomplish.
Winning two gold medals in the same Olympics in different sports? Almost unheard of.
In fact, it had never been done by a woman in the history of the Winter Games — until Saturday.
Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecka took home the gold medal in parallel giant slalom snowboarding, one week after she claimed gold in the super G downhill ski event.
Ledecka becomes the first woman, and fifth athlete overall, to ever win gold medals in different sports at a Winter Olympics.
When asked if her historic accomplishment made her the “queen of the games,” Ledecka seemed hesitant to answer.
“I don’t feel like that, but it sounds good, for sure,” she said.
In a time when young athletes are groomed to focus on one sport, Ledecka broke the mold. She has loved skiing and snowboarding since she was a child and wanted to excel at both.
Ester Ledecka becomes the first woman to win two #gold medals in two different sports in the same #WinterOlympics!! pic.twitter.com/nXQCo8Vpdg
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) February 24, 2018
“I love racing,” the 22-year-old Olympian said. “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 Ledecka, the best thing about her accomplishment is not that it places her in the history books, but rather that it proves those who tried to get her to choose one sport over the other were wrong.
“There were so many of them who tell me this is not possible,” Ledecka said. “And today, I proved it possible.”
Among those who didn’t think it was possible was her coach.
“I always doubted the ability to do both,” Justin Reiter, an American snowboarder who competed in the 2014 Olympics, told The Washington Post. “But I think it was a big deal for us this year to stop the fighting of trying to pull her toward one direction and saying, ‘Hey, let’s just do what you want.’ That was the No. 1 focus for the year: to create a champion and not a racehorse. Empower her so that she could make her decisions, her own choices, and support them.”
U.S. skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin — whose skis Ledecka borrowed for the super G downhill — said Ledecka’s accomplishments should be a lesson for parents and young athletes.
“There’s a million different personalities, a million different ways to go about that kind of success,” Shiffrin said. “The one thing that does not change is perseverance and hard work. Ester was maybe the best example of that in this Games.
“She hasn’t been just solely focusing on skiing. She didn’t specify Alpine skiing in her sports repertoire when she was 8 years old because she wanted to be the Olympic champion. But if she can find the similarities between her sport and actually help build and improve with one sport on to the other, then that’s maybe the most important thing you can take away from it — for young kids to enjoy what they’re doing and be passionate.”
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