Yesterday, the Czech athlete Ester Ledecka pulled off one of the most remarkable upsets in Olympic history, winning a gold medal racing in her second-best sport on skis borrowed from the great American skier Mikaela Shiffrin:
As she crossed the finish line for the Olympic super-G Saturday afternoon, Ester Ledecka from the Czech Republic looked to the scoreboard, saw a massive green No. 1 next to her name and didn’t believe it. Like really didn’t believe it.
“I thought this was a mistake,” she said. “I was looking at the board, thinking they are going to put up there a couple more seconds. I was waiting and watching until they would change the time. And then nothing happened. Everyone was screaming and I thought to myself, ‘OK, now this is weird.’ ”
Weird because the 22-year-old had never made the podium in 23 World Cup alpine races. Weird because her best result ever in super-G was 19th. And weird because she was actually a snowboarder, the first winter sports athlete to compete in the Olympics in both skiing and snowboard racing.
But there was no mistake. Ledecka’s time of 1:21.11 was one-hundredth of a second faster than Austria’s Anna Veith, giving her super-G gold in one of the most stunning upsets of these Olympic Games. So perhaps then, it made sense why Ledecka refused to remove her goggles at the post-race news conference.
“I was not prepared that I would be at this ceremony,” she explained. “And I don’t have on any makeup.”
In case you’re wondering, snowboarding and alpine skiing at this level are radically different sports. It’s just incredible. Apparently, in this case her inexperience was an advantage — she took an unorthodox but apparently optimal route that allowed her to make up for a couple technical mistakes.
Alas, for most American viewers, NBC covered this by repeatedly declaring Veith the winner — starting before half the athletes had even competed — and then doing a bad, half-assed call after the upset happened that had the play-by-play and color commentators speaking in different tenses. Yes, it was a massive upset, but that’s sports — you don’t prematurely declare events over because you miss the best moments. Definitely watch the international call at the link, though, it’s amazing. In related news, at this time of year am very grateful to be living in a market where CBC comes with the cable package.