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.”


Saudi showjumpers ride for places in Tokyo Olympics team

Updated 16 December 2019

Saudi showjumpers ride for places in Tokyo Olympics team

  • International exposure key to Saudi riders’ success: Equestrian federation chief
  •  Visitors enjoyed a fun and exciting atmosphere as riders gave their best performances on the field

RIYADH: Saudi showjumpers at this month’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival aren’t just riding to win — they are battling for places at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, the country’s equestrian chief said on Sunday.

“Saudi riders’ participation in international championships is very important,” said Prince Abdullah bin Fahd bin Abdullah, president of the Saudi Equestrian Federation.

“Coming in contact with international riders will provide them with what they need to achieve their ambitions, which we all know are very big. That is why Saudi riders always have remarkable presence on the international level — hard competitors to beat, like the young rider Waleed Al-Ghamdi, who came second in the first stage of the competition.

“We are waiting for the results of this championship to draft the program for the Tokyo Olympics. We have a good chance at winning but, in this sport one can never be sure until the end of the stage. We will always be sure of the self-confidence our riders have, which will be felt as they represent the Kingdom in any competition,” he added.

Prince Abdullah expressed his happiness at the start of the first stage of the International Show Jumping Championship as part of the Diriyah Equestrian Festival

“The success is due to God, the support the sport has from the wise leadership of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA)," he said

The festival — which concludes next weekend, Dec. 19-21 — is taking place at Al-Duhami Farm, the equestrian arena built by Saudi Olympic legend Ramzy Al-Duhami and his wife Sara Baban.

In addition to showjumping, the attractions include art and photography exhibitions, cultural activities and a range of cafes and restaurants.

Visitors enjoyed a fun and exciting atmosphere as riders gave their best performances on the field, showcasing their skills and talents.

Diriyah has always been a symbol of authenticity and culture, while entertainment came with its international sports activities characterized by their sophistication, strength and diversity.

Mohammed Al-Mudayfar, owner of the artistic incubator “Resin Art” taking part in the activities, said: “The exhibition aims at highlighting the Kingdom’s identity in line with the festival’s. By participating, I seek to revive the Kingdom’s culture and introduce it to the visitors.

'Resin Art' exhibition is part of the activities lined up during the two-week Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (Photo/Supplied)

“The exhibition includes 60 Saudi artworks. They received huge support so they can showcase them in a suitable manner, in line with this year’s fun and exciting activities,” he added, noting: “Featured handicrafts, paintings and sculptures are all up for sale.  

“We provide the necessary space and materials for any artist that wishes to showcase his work. Supporting young Saudis and talented ones in particular is a national duty that society should sense its importance especially when it is related to our heritage and traditions.”

The activities area had a part dedicated to kids that has educational and entertainment activities such as painting horse heads made of cork.

Another exhibition called “Objectives” managed by 24-year-old Lama Al-Thubaiti offered visitors a variety of jewelry and accessories that could be modified according to their requests. Al-Thubaiti works as a doctor for people with hearing disabilities and has been working to develop her brand for five years now.

“We are very happy with the visitors’ reaction and our presence here is remarkable as we get ready to open our headquarters soon,” she said.  

The activities area also featured a wide range of restaurants, Saudi and international cafes, a photography corner and cultural facilities such as Arabian and historic horse exhibition, engraving, henna and local artists.

Diriyah Equestrian Festival is taking place for the second year in a row to bring the international event to the Kingdom, reflect the traditional values of equestrianism according to European standards. The event will run for two weeks, providing participants with the chance to qualify to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the World Championship.