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.”


Ukraine qualify for Euro 2020 despite Ronaldo's 700th goal

Updated 6 min 58 sec ago

Ukraine qualify for Euro 2020 despite Ronaldo's 700th goal

  • Ukraine held on to secure first place in Group

KIEV: Ukraine beat Portugal 2-1 on Monday to clinch a place at Euro 2020 despite Cristiano Ronaldo scoring his 700th career goal.
Roman Yaremchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko put Ukraine two goals up after 27 minutes.
Although Ronaldo scored his landmark goal from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute and Taras Stepanenko was sent off, Ukraine held on to secure first place in Group B.
Ukraine join already qualified Poland, Russia, Italy and Belgium at next summer's finals, while second-placed Portugal, who are eight points behind Ukraine, have Serbia just a point behind them with two matches remaning after they beat Lithuania 2-1.
"There are days like these, when the ball just doesn't want to go in," said Portuguese midfielder Danilo. "No need to do the maths now: we just need to win the next two games to reach Euro 2020."
Yaremchuk pounced from close range in the sixth minute. The centre forward reacted fastest after Rui Patricio dived to parry Serhiy Kryvtsov's header from a corner, and poke the ball across the line.
Yarmolenko added the second when outpaced the Portuguese defence to finish a swift counter attack with a low, crisp first-time shot.
Portugal dominated the second half and finally achieved a breakthrough when Stepanenko blocked a shot with his arm, receiving his marching orders before Ronaldo blasted home the penalty to make it 700 goals for club and country.
The goal was his 95th for Portugal. The 34-year-old is now just 14 goals behind the all-time international record of 109 held by former Iran striker Ali Daei.
While the exact number of goals scored by some of the game's legends is the subject of debate, Ronaldo is agreed to be the sixth player to reach 700 after Austrian Josef Bican, Brazilians Romario and Pele, Hungarian Ferenc Puskas and German Gerd Muller.