OT Olympics: Stunning Upset in Super G

Submitted by stephenrjking on February 17th, 2018 at 2:26 AM

It's a result so shocking that the winning racer didn't even believe she had won, and NBC wasn't even bothering to broadcast: Czech snowboarder (you read that right) Ester Ledecka, noteworthy for being a pioneer in crossing over from snowboarding into Alpine skiing, shocked the skiing world by winning the women's Super G today. 

You'd be shocked, too.

Ester Ledecka, a world champion SNOWBOARDER, shocks the field to win a surprise-gold by 0.01 in alpine skiing women's super-G! #WinterOlympics https://t.co/YtEpNzDMDu pic.twitter.com/EeoHuALcKX

— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 17, 2018

Ledecka has shown some speed in the alpine season this year (yes, I am actually crazy enough to watch World Cup skiing on a regular basis, give me a break I live in Duluth) but this is totally unexpected. She was, by her own testimony, certain that there was a mistake, and she had beaten a field of great performances (including Lindsey Vonn, who lost due to a mistake late in an otherwise great run, and favorites like Lara Gut and Tina Weirather). Her gaping expression is, in its own way, one of the great gold medal reactions of all time.

NBC had already anointed Anna Veith (a good comeback story in her own right) as the gold medal winner, repeating her performance from Sochi, and cut away to figure skating. They're getting roasted for this but it's pretty standard practice in downhill and super G to pencil in the winner before everyone has raced; the best racers all race in the first 20 spots, both for dramatic purposes and to avoid the inevitable breakdown in the course as racer after racer chews it up. The last 25 or so racers are people that finish seconds after everyone else. Late-race surprises will happen every couple of years, but not frequently. 

Kinda makes this all the more fun. Both Super Gs at the Olympics have been terrific.




February 17th, 2018 at 9:50 AM ^

It’s pretty amazing but people are calling her a snowboarder to make it more dramatic. She’s had more success as a snowboarder but is a skier. She has a ski coach, trains for skiing, has competed in the World Cup in skiing and finished around 20th before. She just does both.

It’s like when an nl pitcher hits a home run in baseball. You certainly don’t expect it but the guys bat every game they pitch, it’s not like they’ve never picked up a bat before. People are acting like this is the first time she had ever skied

carolina blue

February 17th, 2018 at 7:59 AM ^

And they increase each to more straight line.

1) slalom: this is the one with the sticks that are straight up out of the ground that they knock over as they go through them. Speeds generally are topping out around 35mph, and is very technical with tight turning skills required.

2) giant slalom: now the gates are the flags but are further apart, meaning more vertical feet is traveled from gate to gate. Still requires pretty good tight turning skills. Neither this nor slalom will see much, if any, tucking for any straight line speed because the gates are too close. Speeds here top out around 45-50.

3) Super G: now this is a high speed race. You saw this last night. There are fewer gates and you start higher up on the hill. The gates are even further apart and speeds are up around 65 or so at their fastest.

4) downhill: this is your high speed, straight-lining event. Gates are very far apart. Speeds here are upwards of 80-90 mph depending on the course.


February 17th, 2018 at 3:55 AM ^

Super G is fun to watch. I saw that clip of her "live" and it was priceless. She kept that face for like 5 minutes. And yes snowboarding >>> skiing. More skills involved. If you fail at snowboarding this chick just told you what to do: move over to skiing and dominate these lesser foes.

Hey shiffrin you taking lessons ??


February 17th, 2018 at 10:09 AM ^

At the everyman level (mine) I disagree. I spent many years skiing (at a high-mediocre level or a 6/7 on the 1-9 scale instructors use) before switching to snowboarding. The first couple of outings were painful, but I quickly got to a point where I could comfortably take hills that would have been dangerous for me on skis.

I think snowboarding is easier. That's partly why I do it. :)


February 17th, 2018 at 10:18 AM ^

Ignorant comment.  More skills involved my ass.  The only reason snowboarding has "more skills involved" is because they had to add tricks and flips to the sport in order not to make snowboarding an event where any potheaded fool could make it down the hill.

Ledecka is not a snowboarder who decided to strap on a pair of skis.  She's until now a relatively unsuccessful skier who crossed over to snowboarding in order to compete at the Olympics in Sochi.  So your stupid analogy is actually backwards.


February 17th, 2018 at 4:00 AM ^

P. Chan skating to Jeff Buckley's hallelujah. Hirano's insane snowboarding (getting robbed of the gold tbh) with a buzz of 1620 he didn't get to show and Russian ladies skaters just in another stratosphere


February 17th, 2018 at 12:57 PM ^

What was most impressive to me was just how silky smooth Shaun White’s run was. A lot of competitors in these events are hitting the tricks but always look a fraction of an inch from wiping out, with landings that look like barely controlled crashes. White looked like he had hardly any stress at all, just like “Ho him, spun and flipped a few times 20 feet in the air, no big”.


February 17th, 2018 at 3:28 PM ^

Great points, indeed. And as color analyst Todd Richards points out from time to time, "maintaining the line" within the pipe is also a key aspect of the judging. White's line on his gold medal run was nearly flawless. He most definitely deserved to win. Will be interesting to see if he returns to Beijing in 4 years. He's already a solid decade older than many of his fellow competitors. I am fascinated by the limitless drive of legends like White to be the best in their chosen fields.


February 17th, 2018 at 10:40 AM ^

Those Russian female figure skaters are so much better than everyone else, it's ridiculous. Every other female skater looks like they are skating on sand compared to them.

I'm not a huge figure skating guy, but those two are absolutely must watch TV.


February 17th, 2018 at 11:33 PM ^

Can't stand figure skating. Hate it.

But those two Russian girls. OMG. Sometimes you know you're watching history. They really, really look like the two best figure skaters who ever lived. The 18 year old is already statistically in that discussion.

When do they go as individuals? Monday and Tuesday night?


February 17th, 2018 at 12:11 PM ^

That part of the story seems most surreal to me.  I mean, this is the Olympics, not some NASTAR coarse where you can pay $10 to drop in after lunch.  She didn't say "SCREW IT... Let me give this GS thing a try... Put me on the list!... Anyone have some skis they aren't using?"  She had to qualify just like everyone else, and you don't ski at that level on a pair of rentals or loaners.  The margins are fractions of a second, where little details like the right composition of wax make the difference between the podium and last place.  So she definitely had her own skis and a qualified tech.  New skis always take some getting used to... why experiment with some demos during a medal round?  It just doesn't compute.  There has to be more to this story.


February 17th, 2018 at 7:35 AM ^

I turned on NBCSN about half way through her run.  That was very cool to see!  The expression on her face was legit - she thought it was a mistake.  It took her several minutes of convincing before she realized what was really happening.

This is why you never half-ass things.


February 17th, 2018 at 7:39 AM ^

Olympics buy caught the Men's Super G a few nights ago and it was fun to watch. Sounded like those guys from the Netherlands were going to stack the podium and a few of the later skiers (15-20 range) kept bumping them down...made for good live TV.


February 17th, 2018 at 10:00 AM ^

throughout the entire event. The color guy was talking way too much, usually about something other than the run we were watching. He said Vonn, who was the first to ski, could still win when only 3 or 4 skiers had raced. They kept anointing whom ever was in first place at the moment as the winner and said no one after the first 19 would have a legitimate chance of winning. Then they proclaimed the winner and cut away from the broadcast to go to men’s skating. Later, the skating announcers said we hear there has been a big development in the ladies super G. You would think that NBC had never covered sporting events before.