PROFESSIONAL SKIER AND SNOWBOARDER ESTER LEDECKÁ SHARES HER SECRETS TO BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL WOMAN IN A MEN’S SPORTING WORLD.
Ester Ledecká is unique to the sporting industry. She was the first athlete to combine both snowboarding and alpine skiing at the highest level. Defying the recommendation of her coaches to focus on just one sector, Ledecká was determined to compete in both sports to the highest possible standard. And it paid off. At the PyeonChang 2019 Winter Olympics Ledecker surprised everyone by winning gold medals in both sports – a first for any woman in a single edition of the Winter Olympics.
Ledecká who is originally from Czech Republic has been competing in winter sports since she was just five years old and won her fist Milca Cup Series that year. Her grandfather was a World Cup hockey champion and her mother was a figure skater – so sport really does run in the family. Since her first win she has continued to have great successes. In 2013 she became a two-time gold medallist at the World Junior Championships. She won the parallel giant slalom at the 2014 World Cup, her first professional career success and is now a two-time Snowboard World Champion, with victories in 2015 and 2017.
With these amazing successes in sport Ester was recently announced as the latest brand ambassador of Richard Mille. She has aleady been road-testing the RM 007 Titanium and she wil soon wear a prototype of the RM 67-02 Automatic. Having a strong, durable watch that is also comfortable is essential for a sportswoman or man and Richard Mille offers just that. We talk Ledecká on her partnership with the brand and what it’s like being a successful woman in the sporting world.
Why did you decide to align yourself with a brand like Richard Mille?
I was admirative of the many real life superheroes who wear Richard Mille timepieces and I wanted to be part of the family too.
What common codes do you think you and the brand have?
I think we both love what we do. We strive to be the best in the world and enjoy it.
As an athlete what do you look for in a watch?
Something to tell the time and give me an exact time.
You were the first athlete to combine snowboarding and alpine skiing at the highest level – what did that achievement mean to you?
I followed the way I was shown by smart people and sporting experts. I have always enjoyed sport and did not let anyone make a fool of me.
You defied the advice of your coaches and peers to specialize in two sports – how did you know you would succeed?
I have known exactly what I wanted to do since my childhood. I had my plan, which I respected carefully. Day after day, slowly, calmly and persistently I worked to fulfil my dream. Nobody could stop me. Even if the Ski Federation decides to be against it, I’m doing what I enjoy. This is my biggest victory.
You are a hugely successful woman in a male dominated environment – what have been the challenges you have faced?
It’s sensational to be in the men’s world. You know, I love the men around me. I have only men in my team, it’s great and it’s funny. It’s probably more fun because my cheerful mother is bossing everybody around!
Do you think the sporting world is becoming more accepting of women?
Yes I really do.
What is the best way to spend your time?
Time to me is everything when it comes to the start and finish of a race. I have to make sure that time is as short as possible.
What’s a big challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
The Ski Federation banned me from skiing just before the 2012 Olympics in Sochi. Even though I met the criteria, other skiers were sent there instead of me. They said I was just going to snowboard. I said “okay‚ if I’m not good enough, I’ll have to work more and do even better”. So I worked on my strength, until exhaustion. I ended up injuring myself. Before I started in Sochi, I was diagnosed with herniated disc injuries on the 3rd, 4th and 5th vertebrae.
I set out to start and tried to go to the finish. Thankfully it was just downhill (even though there were twelve rides on the snowboard). The doctors were at the start and finish of the race and were riding along the track the whole time to get me out of the ground. The serviceman had to switch on the skis before every race. Everyone was terribly concerned for me, but no one could stop me. I was like a machine. I wanted to finish the race! I felt a great injustice at not being allowed to ski, so I wanted to finish at least the snowboard races. After the races, the doctor told me there was only 30 per cent chance I could still compete. It took me a year to rehabilitate with daily training and I realised that psychological pain could be far worse that physical pain. That’s why my happiest moment was in South Korea when I was at the start of the first GS and I knew I was going to start and nobody would stop me from skiing in the Olympics.
You come from a family of athletes – how did that help you become who you are today?
My grandfather and grandmother taught me that it was not always possible to win and I had to accept that.
What are the thoughts that go through your mind when you ski down a mountain?
If my hair is blown into my face!
What about the feeling you get when you win a gold medal?
It’s a feeling of joy. “Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself”, as Mahatma Gandhi said.
What is it you love about the snow?
I love water in all states. In the snow or at sea in the wind. I love the colour of the snow and the sea. I love the image of the full moon reflecting in water or when it freezes and the sun reflects on it. Eskimos allegedly have about 47 names for the snow. I have only one. Miracle. I am amazed by the fact that you can defrost the snow in your hand when you take off the warm gloves and it turns into a drop of water.
What is something you still want to achieve?
That is my secret!
What’s in store for you in 2019?
Only time will tell.