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X Factor Ester

A fave IG is Ester Ledecka walking into a boy’s hockey game on a pond, and mischievously flicking away the puck. We see her grin as she leaves the ice. A few years ago a WAWC racer who I bet is tight with compliments said Ester’s the circuit’s best athlete. So she’s impish, mightily athletic, and capable of owning WAWC Speed if she applies herself. Ledecka is talented enough to inhabit 5 of 8 EOS Speed podiums over the next four years, IMO. AFAICT it comes down to WC Snowboarding being her favorite. Snowboarding’s safer, generally. And she kicks it. Meanwhile, she’s EOS DH 2nd 2020; 8th 2021; 3d 2022. We must stamp our feet for another full Speed schedule!

She missed WAWC 2023 season because of a serious shoulder injury. Though not as debilitating as a knee, shoulders can be highly-stressed during ski races; hurt shoulders are very painful to boot. Full recovery and rehab hopefully accomplished. If so, three months of Speed training say 3 days a week would have her in fine fettle…? How does someone whose body has been honed since she could walk decide she’s ready for a WC Alpine season after a year off? If Ester pulls the Speed trigger, she'll cock the hammer this season. She could ease in, settle, and EOS DH 3d/4th 2024 then 2nd 2025. I think she’s that good. If anyone’s Speed ability and potential in WAWC is “gifted” beyond usual physical/mental training’s payoff, Ester’s is. She’s taken some spills (a hum-dinger at Crans Montana 2021) but doesn’t crash frequently. I don’t think she’s injured a knee. Going further out the speculative limb, does she favor snowboarding because it’s safer? Is she so superior in her best discipline(s) that she figures excellent EOS is in pocket? Maybe the Snowboarding WC vibe is better—she’s fairly relaxed, has more fun; the pay’s fine and her knees are pleased.

Ehhh, the heck with that. Ester’s gotta train GS as well and go for all the Alpine marbles!!

We want to see her.

Some salient stats.

FIS races – 7 seasons 2011 to 2018. Starts/finishes within T30. (Very few results >T30)

2011 – 14 starts - 8xSL 3d; 4xT10; 3xT20. 5xGS 2xT10; 2xT20; 21st. SG 18th.

2012 – 7 starts - 4xSL 2nd; 2x3d; 5th. 3xGS 9th; 11th; 21st.

2013 – 6 starts - 3xSL 2nd; 2x4th. 3xGS 1st; 2nd; 18th.

2014 – 7 starts - 3xSL 2xT10; 21st. 4xSG 3d; 3xT10.

2015 – 18 starts - 5xSL 3d; 2xT10; 2xT20. 7xGS 2nd; 3d; 4xT10; 15th. 5xSG 3d; 4xT10. DH 12th.

2016 – 8 starts - 4xSL 16th; 2xT30; DNF. 3xGS 3d; 10th; 14th. SG 6th

2017 – 11 starts - 4xSL 1st; 4th; 2xT20. 5xGS1st; 2nd; 2xT10; 15th. 2xSG 2xT10.

71 total FIS starts.

European Cup – 11 starts

Dec 2013 - Jan 2014 – 4xDH 44th best; 2xSG 7th; 37th.

January 2016 – 3xDH 8th; 12th; 28th. GS 29th

World Cup

2016 – 6 starts - 3xDH 2xT25; 36th. 3xSG 2xT25; 45th.

2017 – 6 starts - 4xDH 13th; 2xT25; 36th. SG 2x19th.

2018 – 9 starts - 4xDH 7th; 3xT20. 4xSG 24; 44th; 2xDNF. GS DNQ1.

2019 – 12 starts - 7xDH 2xT10; 2xT20; 2xT30; 34th; 5xSG 2xT20; 2xT30; DNF

2020 – 13 starts – 8xDH 1st; 3d; 3xT10; 2xT20; 32nd. 5xSG 6th; 10th; 17th; 30th; 31st.

2021 – 11 starts - 5xDH 2nd; 3xT10; DNF. 5xSG 1st; 3xT10; 15th. GS 20th.

2022 – 12 starts - 7xDH 1st; 2nd; 3d; 2xT10; 12th; 22nd. 5xSG 2xT10; 2xT20; 26th.

2023 – Injured shoulder; no starts

58 total WC starts – AC, Parallel, and DNQs excluded.

Stats are fairly tedious, but absent substantial EC starts, these FIS results are telling. Bear in mind she joined the WC Snowboard tour December 2012 and has run two Disciplines since—Parallel SL and Parallel GS; about 7 to 12 total starts per season. Ester also threw in 14 EC Snowboard starts before WC. Of 57 WC Snowboard finishes, she has 21 victories, 14 combined 2nd/3d, and 8xT5. No wonder she enjoys it, and her sponsor/endorsement fees must be among the sport’s highest.

So we’re lucky to have her in WAWC. These FIS starts are stacked heavily toward Tech, especially during the early years. I imagine FIS Tech races are more numerous since they’re easier to stage, especially re vertical drop. But this also shows Ester gave Tech a solid look in her teens, and did quite well. When time came to hit WC on skis, however, Tech defenestrated: three GS starts and no SL to date.

My point is that Ledecka apparently can excel at anything she wants to, but she and her team acknowledge her year has 365 days like everyone else’s. So she keeps a successful Snowboard schedule. Fine. But she can run both. Given her Speed results, I’ll continue the tape loop: Ester Ledecka, committed to basic off-season Speed training regimens, can finish Top-7 in every WAWC Speed race she starts, and podium half of them. If she remains healthy and motivated, T7 is a conservative standard. Though the win from bib 26 seemed implausible, no one beats Anna Veith, Tina Weirather, and Lara Gut in a huge race (2018 Olympic SG) by a fluke. Remember, too, Ester added probably 0.25 to her run with a couple of late errors.

And hockey was her first sport. Then she turned four.


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