Two-sport athlete Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic defended her 2018 Olympic gold in snowboarding parallel giant slalom Tuesday at the 2022 Winter Games, defeating Austrian Daniela Ulbing in the big final to clinch title.
Ulbing made a mistake near the bottom of the course, allowing Ledecka to cruise home for the victory. Afterward, Ledecka, the first woman to win back-to-back golds in PGS, revealed she was so focused she wasn't aware it was the competition's final race.
"I was so concentrated until the end that I didn't even know if we had to go up one more time or not, so I was not celebrating it at all," Ledecka said. "It's still not sunken in … I'm super happy, but in my head I'm just still a little bit in the race."
In the event's small final, Slovenian Gloria Kotnik beat Michelle Dekker of the Netherlands to grab bronze. Kotnik, a four-time Olympian, was in disbelief she'd earned her first Games medal and said she couldn't wait to get home and see her infant son.
Ledecka, 26, captured a surprise gold in Alpine super-G a week before her PGS win in PyeongChang. This year the order is swapped, with super-G following PGS this Friday. The now three-time Olympic gold medalist may also compete in Alpine downhill next Tuesday.
Benjamin Karl wins men's PGS for third Olympic medal
The 2011 and 2013 world PGS titlist won silver in Vancouver then bronze in Sochi's parallel slalom, an event that's no longer an Olympic event and in which Karl is the reigning world champion.
"When I was a child at 10 years old I wrote on a sheet of paper that one day I would be world champion. I will be the fastest racer in the world and I'll be an Olympic champion," Karl said. "I can't describe with words, I'm just happy and satisfied. I'll enjoy it during the rest of the day."
Sochi Olympic double-gold medalist Vic Wild of the ROC added an unexpected bronze to his collection by taking the small final over 2021 world runner-up Roland Fischnaller of Italy. Born in Washington state, Wild won both Alpine snowboarding events for Russia in 2014.
"In our sport, it's an interesting situation to fight for the bronze, because if you lose that run, you get nothing," Wild said. "If you go to the big final, you're free … But to fight for that bronze, there's no feeling like it. And I never experienced that at the Olympics."
"It's full circle. Sochi was the up, Korea was the down and it's fighting back from there," he said. "Winning two golds like that in Sochi in that fashion was a pretty crazy situation for me, and maybe I didn't handle it the best way … Maybe it took me that whole situation to humble me a bit in Korea and go to the bottom, to really feel terrible for a long time and rebuild myself as a much better person."