Feb. 17: Ester Ledecka shocks herself with a gold in women’s super G
Ester Ledecka is a Czech snowboarder, and a really good one. She was the defending gold medallist in the parallel giant slalom. But she decided two years ago she also wanted to do downhill skiing. She continued training for both disciplines despite her coaches insisting she choose, not to mention the scheduling conflicts. While she had two junior championships and two world championships on the snowboard, her best race on skis was a seventh-place finish in the downhill in Lake Louise in December. In super G, her best season was 2016-17 when she finished in 38th place. No top 10 finishes, much less any world championships.
When her coaches said she could do top 15 in the super G, she was very skeptical. But she made the final, and was the 26th skier to take the course. Lindsey Vonn was first, and medal favourites like Lara Gut and Anna Veith were already done, with Veith in the lead at 1:21.12.
The CBC commentators were busy discussing trivia about her two-sport nature and surprising performances on skis, and it was about a minute into the race before they realized that she was getting split times ahead of all the other competitors. Ledecka had even less of an idea how she was doing — she was a bit too busy to look at a TV screen.
When she crossed the line, the time stopped at 1:21:11. The number -0.01 appeared in green, showing she was ahead of Veith by 1/100 of a second.
On the Czech TV broadcast carrying the event, all you could hear was screaming from the commentators as Ledecka came to a stop and looked at the scoreboard.
What makes this moment for me is the expression on her face. She’s not excited, she’s … confused. Either the scoreboard is not functioning properly or she’s not reading it right. “There must be some mistake,” she says.
No, there was no mistake. None of the remaining skiers challenged for her time — the best one came in 14th place. Ledecka’s position stayed and she won the gold medal, the first for the Czech Republic at these Olympics.
Austria: We are the best in super-G!:
Swiss: No, we are the best!
USA: Shut up, we are the best!
Italia: Mamma mia!
Ledecka: Hold my beer … and snowboard.
— EsterLedecka (@LedeckaEster) February 19, 2018
The country finished with seven medals, including two golds. The other gold medal was in the women’s parallel giant slalom snowboard event.
The winner? Ester Ledecka. That one didn’t surprise anyone.
Feb. 17: “Can I give you a hug?”
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 18, 2018
She ended up in 12th, and the third of three Canadians in the women’s skeleton final, but Mirela Rahneva, whose parent moved to Canada from Bulgaria when she was 10, had the more emotional interview after the race, saying she was racing for her mother, who died the previous summer from cancer. She asked interviewer Karina Leblanc if she could hug her, and Leblanc obliged.
Feb. 19: Just happy to be here
Worst Olympian ever? Craftiest Olympian ever?
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 20, 2018
Her name is Elizabeth Marian Swaney. She’s American, but because her mother’s parents are from Hungary she was able to represent that country at the Olympics. She required top 30 finishes at world cup events to qualify, so she got that mainly by going to world cup events that had fewer than 30 participants. She had no tricks, except to finish simple runs to get nominal scores.
In the women’s ski halfpipe qualifying, as her competitors made cool jumps and rotations in the air, she was content to simply ski up and back down. Her score of 31.40 on her second run was enough for 24th in the 24-person field.
She’s not the first athlete to switch countries to go to the Olympics. Ted-Jan Bloemen switched to Canada from the Netherlands. And athletes representing non-winter countries like Nigeria, Jamaica and Tonga generally live and train elsewhere. But they generally don’t enter competitions like this one, where their lack of skill is so evident.
Feb. 19: Patrick Chan tears up
"Dearest beloved son,"
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 19, 2018
CBC reached out to Olympians’ families and asked them to write letters to them, which they read on camera. Patrick Chan’s was a highlight.
Feb. 19: A tie for gold
Bobsleigh has been a struggle for Canada, historically, with the notable exception of Kaillie Humphries on the women’s side. The last time Canadian men won gold, it was Pierre Lueders
and David MacEachern in 1998, in a tie with an Italian team.
Justin Kripps and Alex Kopacz were in first place by 0.06 seconds going into the final run, ahead of Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis of Germany. That’s nothing in this sport. The team still needed a perfect run for gold.
The start was 0.07 seconds slower than their German counterparts. Their lead was already gone, and they were in the read by 0.01 seconds. At the second split, they’re behind by 0.05. At the third, 0.02. Then the time turns green. Ahead by 0.01. Then by 0.03. They’re neck and neck, and we won’t know until that finish time pops up how they rank. They’re ahead, but their speed is slightly slower than the Germans. We hold our breath. Will that time difference be red or will it be green?
Seconds later, they cross the finish line, and the time difference is in … white.
A tie for gold. Again.
The Canadian teammates jump for joy. And so do the Germans, who rush to the track, raise their arms for their fans and go to embrace Kopacz as Kripps climbs out of the sled. At the Olympics not everyone can win. But every now and then, victory can be shared.