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

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.”


Australia can win basketball World Cup, says USA coach

Updated 22 August 2019

Australia can win basketball World Cup, says USA coach

MELBOURNE: United States coach Gregg Popovich has tipped Australia as a key contender at the upcoming basketball World Cup in China, saying they have the ability to win the tournament.
The veteran San Antonio Spurs mastermind offered the praise ahead of two warm-up games between the nations in Melbourne this week.
“They are one of the teams that can win the whole thing, without a doubt,” Popovich said. “I’m not saying that because I’m here (in Melbourne). It’s just a fact.”
The world number one Americans will try to win a third consecutive World Cup next month with a line-up that lacks many of their NBA superstars, with the likes of James Harden, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard among notable absentees.
But they boast top young talent and will use the games in Australia to refine their identity.
They arrived in Melbourne on the back of a 90-81 victory over second-ranked Spain in Anaheim, California, and will play the Boomers later Thursday, then again Saturday before a final warm-up against Canada in Sydney on August 26.
In contrast to the five-time World Cup winners, Australia have never won a medal. But Popovich thinks this could be their year.
“They’ve been close for several years, and they are hungry. They are talented. Coach (Andrej) Lemanis does a good job, and they are a team,” he said on the USA basketball website.
“They are together. They know what they are doing. They execute really well, so that’s what it takes. They have the toughness and physicality to go with it.
“I think they are one of the top contenders without a doubt.”
While Australia boosts a handful of NBA stars, including Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingle and Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs, they suffered a setback on Monday when Jonah Bolden joined his teammate Ben Simmons in pulling out of the World Cup.
Other Australian NBA standouts not playing include Thon Maker (NBA commitments), Ryan Broekhoff (birth of his child) and Dante Exum (injury).