2018 sensation Ledecká will carry Czech hopes to Winter Olympics

Four years ago in PyeongChang, Ester Ledecká stunned the world. As well as winning gold in her original main sport, snowboarding, the Czech took first place in super-G skiing.

No one had even competed in these two events at the same Winter Olympics before, let alone won them.

In Beijing, Ledecká will be the Czech Republic’s top medal hope and has been named by CNN as one of its 25 athletes to watch.

However, the 26-year-old tried to play down expectations and reportedly even banned the word ‘Olympics’ in her camp.

Ester Ledecka |  Photo: SLCR

“It’s equally important for all the other competitions this season. I’ll do my best.

“The pressure is neither more nor less strong than during other events.

“Imagine coming to work and everyone expecting you to be the best in the world at your job. This is what is expected of me at every competition.

“I also expect it from myself, because I want to be great. That’s why I train.

“So the pressure is there, but it’s not greater than in the World Cup races.”

Ledecká will begin his snowboard parallel giant slalom title defense next Tuesday before putting on his skis three days later.

Besides Ledecká, other Czechs to watch will be in the speed skating arena.

Martina Sáblíková, now 34, already has six Olympic gold medals to her name. She’s been beset by various issues this season, but says she can’t wait to go to China.

Martina Sablikova |  Photo: Bjarte Hetland, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0

Sáblíková’s friend Nikola Zdráhalová, 25, is the only speed skater to have qualified for five different distances.

Another medal hopeful to watch is Markéta Davidová, 25, in biathlon. Her biggest success to date was winning gold at the World Championships last year.

Eva Samková, a snowboard cross star who stood on the podium in Sochi eight years ago and finished third four years later, will not compete in Beijing. The 28-year-old broke both ankles during a competition late last year.

For its part, the Czech ice hockey team was affected by multiple Covid infections during preparations for the Winter Olympics. In fact, they were so outnumbered that they had to hire an equipment manager in goal during training in China this week.

Four years ago, the Czech team won four gold, two silver and three bronze medals in PyeongChang.

Gracenote, known for its Olympic predictions, says the Czech Republic are likely to return from Beijing with one gold and two bronze.

Berta D. Wells