Ester Ledecka won the second leg of an unheard-of Olympic double, taking the gold medal in snowboarding's parallel giant slalom Saturday to go with her surprise skiing victory in the Alpine super-G earlier in the Winter Games.
The Czech star, top-ranked on the snowboarding circuit but never a threat until now in skiing, is the first to win gold medals in both sports.
She outraced Selina Joerg of Germany to the line in the final and won by .46 seconds, a much more comfortable margin than the .01-second edge in the super-G race that left her staring at the clock in shock.
This time, it was no surprise. Ledecka crossed the line and simply pumped her fist, then offered a long congratulatory hug to Joerg.
On the men’s side, the medals went to Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland, Lee Sang-ho of South Korea and Zan Kosir of Slovakia, for gold, silver and bronze. Reigning Olympic gold medalist Vic Wild, representing Olympic Athletes from Russia, was eliminated in the round of 16.
The two Americans in the men’s draw, Aaron Muss and Michael Trapp, did not advance past the qualifying rounds. However, just making it to the Olympics could be counted as a victory for Muss.
The 23-year-old competed, despite a near-death experience on the slopes in 2014. Following surgery for a shoulder injury, he suffered a pulmonary edema and was placed in a medically induced coma for two weeks. Afterwards, he was given a choice between heart surgery, which would have ended his snowboarding career, and continuing without it, which risked his heart giving out eventually. He opted against surgery and reached the Olympics.
The men’s and women’s event were both held in full on Saturday. The morning started with two qualifying runs for each snowboarder, in which their times on the two runs were added together. The top 16 riders in each field then advanced to the next round.
Snowboarders were seeded one through 16 based on their times and then raced head-to-head in a series of races that eliminated one competitor at a time until it was time for the gold-medal race.