PyeongChang 2018 Olympic super-G champion Ester Ledecka, who cruised to an easy World Cup snowboard parallel giant slalom victory in Cortina two months ago, jokes that she will ride that momentum right into Saturday’s world championship downhill.
“Yeah, that was over there on that other hill,” Ledecka says, pointing directly behind her with a big laugh while in the Cortina finish area. “I love Cortina – it is my favorite place and that’s why I’m fast here on the skis or on my snowboard.
“It’s just fun here – the people are nice to me, it’s a great hill, it’s mostly sunny, so I think the downhill is going to be good.”
Ledecka narrowly missed adding another major event medal to her long list of snowboard and skiing achievements, finishing .06 seconds behind bronze medalist Mikaela Shiffrin at the world championship opening super-G on Thursday.
The free-spirited, yet fiercely determined Czech racer – who stunned the ski racing establishment with her surprise Olympic super-G gold medal performance three seasons ago in South Korea – didn’t seem the least bit upset despite coming so close to her first world championship skiing medal.
“I’m proud of myself, to be honest – I think it was a great run,” Ledecka told Ski Racing Media. “I had a lot of fun and that’s the main part about it.
“Yeah, sure, I’m fourth and it’s just six-hundredths from third place,” the 25-year-old Czech multi-sport athlete continued. “For sure, that’s not so positive, but it is great that I lost being so close to such great athletes and great skiers.”
Lara Gut-Behrani captured her first world title, 0.34 seconds ahead of Swiss teammate Corinne Suter, with defending world super-G champion Shiffrin in third.
Ledecka downplayed a few costly errors that she made approaching the lower section of the Olympia delle Tofane course.
“I’m just happy that I am better than sixth, because I was sixth-sixth, so I’m moving forward and that’s a good sign,” Ledecka said, referring to consecutive sixth place super-G finishes in Garmisch-Partenkirchen two weekends ago.
Ledecka is making only her second ski racing trip to the Italian Dolomites resort. The double Olympic skiing and snowboarding gold medalist has stressed repeatedly that her results will continue to improve as she becomes more familiar with the varying tracks. Ledecka kids that she is still a “baby” ski racer.
“It’s really fun to ride here – I wonder how the snow will develop because it still is snowy, not pure ice or super hard,” Ledecka says, about the Olympia delle Tofane piste. “I wonder how fast it will be for the downhill – it’s a very nice slope and I’m looking forward to it for sure.”
The Czech ski racer and her competitors will had two downhill training runs on Friday, after a week of race postponements due to persistent snowfall, fog and uncooperative weather. Ledecka finished 12th and 11th in those runs.
Ledecka arrives in Cortina coming off a second-place downhill result, followed by a dramatic crash in which she tumbled and tangled in the safety netting in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, Jan. 22-23. Unharmed, she joked shortly thereafter that she would be calling Bode Miller for secrets on how to ski fast along the safety netting.
Ledecka, who seems to cracks jokes almost as frequently as she swaps skis and snowboards, says that despite Cortina’s magical beauty, she is a professional and will not be distracted, rather harnessing its power.
“No, it gives you the strength that it is so beautiful – we are so lucky to be here. It is our job to ride down the hill and having this as our amazing office, it’s a gift.
“The weather looks good and I’m looking forward to Saturday’s downhill.”
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