Ester Ledecka battled ‘internal strife’ in Olympic fairytale: Coach

Gold medalist Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic on the podium. (Reuters)
Updated 25 February 2018
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Ester Ledecka battled ‘internal strife’ in Olympic fairytale: Coach

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea: Czech sensation Ester Ledecka overcame suffocating pressure and inner demons to complete a historic Olympic ski-snowboard double, her coach has revealed.
The 22-year-old dominated Saturday’s snowboard giant parallel slalom — a week after stunning the world of alpine skiing with victory in the super-G — establishing herself as the athlete of the Pyeongchang Games.
Ledecka’s parents and coaches had been concerned about the intense hype surrounding her bid to become the first woman to capture gold in different sports at the same Winter Games.
“The amount of pressure that was on her was incredible,” said snowboarding coach Justin Reiter.
“People are people and Ester has her own internal strife. We worked really closely with our team and her parents to manage it as best we can and help her.
“She was protected from the media all this time,” added the American. “While the super-G gold was amazing, of course it was unexpected — she came here with the goal to medal in snowboarding.
“If she chose to just absorb all the energy from the super-G medal and kind of check off the Olympic medal, we’d be having a different conversation today. But because of who Ester is and because of the way she functions, that’s not enough.”
Reiter paid tribute to Ledecka’s work ethic in balancing two sports, while admitting it is hard to pull the adrenalin junkie away from the slopes.
“The number one thing I wanted to do with Ester was to empower her to make choices so that she can become a true champion,” said Reiter.
“She displayed that this season by prioritising her health over her training. In the past she was always train, train, train, train, train and really didn’t rest enough.
“This year we managed everything as perfectly as can be and she’s going home with two gold medals in her pocket.”
Describing Ledecka as a “once-in-a-lifetime” athlete, Reiter insisted there would be no pressure on the snowboarder to increase the events she skis in as a result of her Olympic success.
“If she wants to ski more, I’m fine with that,” he said. “If she wants to snowboard more, I’m fine with that. This is Ester’s career.
“We’ve gotten into this idea of sports specialization at a young age, but sport is not intended to be a business investment.
“We’ve turned it into that and yes it’s about money, but ideally it should be about fun and that’s what makes Ester unique — no matter how hard she works, she loves the work.”


Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

Updated 25 March 2019
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Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

  • Five-year old bidding to become first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups.
  • $12 million race takes place at Meydan on Saturday.

LONDON: Thunder Snow is preparing well as he bids to become the first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups, according to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
The five-year-old memorably won the showcase $12 million race at Meydan by five and three-quarter lengths, winning in a track record time last year. He returned to the track on Super Saturday two weeks ago, finishing second in the Group 1 Al-Maktoum Challenge Round Three.
And Godolphin are expecting big things from him in the famous race. Bin Suroor, the most successful handler in the history of the 2000m dirt feature with eight winners to his name, is feeling confident.
“He did his final serious piece of work on Saturday and went very well indeed,” the Godolphin trainer said. “He needed his Super Saturday outing — his first run since November — badly and has come on a lot for it. We expect him to run a big race under conditions we know suit him, but obviously it is a good race.”
Thunder Snow has already made history as the only horse to win both the Group 2 UAE Derby and Group 1 Dubai World Cup, but if he is to win this Saturday then he will be revered for years to come.
One of his big rivals in the race will be Yoshida. Trained by Bill Mott he arrived in Dubai on March 19 in preparation for the cash-rich race. The Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry landed in the Emirate off a sixth-place finish in the inaugural Group 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
He won the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, as well as the prestigious Woodward at Saratoga last year and Riley Mott, assistant to his father Bob, said Yoshida is looking good ahead of the big race.
“He’s settled in really well,” he said. “He traveled great and we’re very happy with him. The facilities here are top class. This is my seventh time over here and we’re treated very well.”
Yoshida went out just after 7:00 a.m. in Monday to stretch his legs over the famous dirt track.
“He just had a routine gallop this morning and we let him stand in the gate. Nothing too serious,” Mott said.
Jose Ortiz, who has piloted Yoshida though his last two starts and was aboard for the Grade 1 score at Churchill Downs, will make his first appearance in Dubai. Mott said he expects Ortiz, who guided Yoshida to a closing fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will have plenty of options in the 2000m race.
“It sounds like there’s a lot of pace from the local horses, but we have a horse that’s pretty versatile in the way he runs,” Mott said. “He’s able to adapt to the pace scenario. It’s just a matter of how the race develops in front of him.”