Everyone can win, not everyone can lose

Mind-boggling. There’s no other way to describe what Ester Ledecká accomplished at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. One of the biggest bangs in the history of alpine racing…and alpine snowboarding, and one which left everyone smiling broadly, trying to absorb the magnitude and uniqueness of what they had just witnessed! Interestingly though, the millions of viewers around the globe were not the only ones who were left trying to understand the inconceivable.

— It may sound a bit strange, but I believe that I was the most shocked of everyone. It was always my goal to reach this level of competition, to be one of the elite racers, but I also knew that as I would be doing it in two very different disciplines, it would take me a little longer to get there. As a consequence, I really didn’t expect to get those kinds of results so quickly, but it was a wonderfully surreal and happy moment.

With such an achievement already recorded, it’s difficult to compare Ester Ledecká to anyone else. Most athletes train and sacrifice much of their lives to reach the top in only one sport, and even then reaching the pinnacle of the elite racers, or stepping up on the podium, remains a distant prospect. Imagine then, splitting all that training, drive and effort between two very contrasting sports. It’s a natural ability, an x-factor, which sets her apart, a pure competitor who had the ability to win in her chosen sports and who must have an innate, almost sixth sense, for gaining speed and momentum.

— I wouldn’t necessarily call it a sense for speed, but I’ve always been in love with the feeling and sensations of speed, and I mean head over heels in love with speed! As you would expect, when I move from snowboarding to skiing, it takes me a little while to tune in and get used to the higher speeds again, but the love is always there.

Previously very well known within the alpine snowboard circuit, her double Olympic golds blew that small bubble apart as she became an overnight global sensation. For most athletes the reaction to fame is hard to gauge, some will run away from the limelight, while others will enjoy and soak up as much as they can, but, harder to ignore is the internal pressure that follows success, and how to meet new and varied expectations.

— It’s strange but I was expecting this to happen at some point, so I prepared myself a bit for what would come. Obviously, things are bigger and quite different from what I had expected, but having a famous Dad helped a lot, primarily as he taught me how to keep a distance to things. I have my private life that I don’t share in public. I’m not an extrovert, but I still think that the fame I gained from the Olympics is mostly positive. It’s definitely not holding me back!

A relaxed exterior may mask the inner competitor, and anyone who excels at the  sharp end of the racing knows that it requires steely determination and a very competitive edge to be on top, but to prosper it also requires a balance and perspective.

— In general, to be competitive in my sports is the main objective, that’s what it’s all about. But my grandfather, who won several Olympic and World Cup medals in ice hockey, taught me a fundamental lesson; how to lose. Which I believe is an incredible gift to have. Everyone can win, but not everyone can lose in a good way. And, in our sports most of the time you lose, so it’s all about being able to take those experiences to make you a better competitor and person.

To many observers it would seem evident that by concentrating on one sport the possibilities of success would increase wildly. But to Ester, who grew up snowboarding and skiing, and who has no intention in focusing on one or the other, it’s not so clear, and she sees them as complements to each other. And when you reflect on that fact that she’s an Olympic champion in both disciplines, it seems ludicrous to suggest otherwise!

One aspect above all which may explain her success is that she loves to compete, perfectly illustrated in the period immediately after the World Cup skiing season is over. Instead of taking a well-earned break, as many of the other stars will do, she chooses to keep going, competing in the “normal” FIS races.

— The World Cup stops early, but I just want to race. I love it. For me, it’s the same thing. It’s a race.