ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -Austria’s Benjamin Karl won gold in a surprising men’s snowboard parallel giant slalom final at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday as Czech Ester Ledecka retained the women’s title.
Ledecka, 26, will have little time to celebrate as she will also defend her alpine skiing super-G title in Beijing.
“I’m proud of my team and they’ve done an amazing job,” Ledecka said.
“It’s a little bit difficult because part of my head is still racing right now on that (snowboard) course and the other side of my head is already trying to get through the line on the skiing course.”
Austrian Daniela Ulbing took silver in the women’s race and Gloria Kotnik of Slovenia the bronze. Kotnik burst into tears speaking to reporters after she made the podium for the first time.
“It’s for my family,” she said, dedicating the medal to her one-year old son. “I just want to make him and everyone proud.”
Karl beat Slovenia’s Tim Mastnak in the final men’s race by 0.82 seconds and twice gold medallist Vic Wild of the Russian Olympic Committee took bronze.
“I can’t describe with words, I’m just happy and satisfied,” Karl said, adding that winning gold had been his “life project”.
In a nail-biting men’s quarter-final, South Korean favourite Lee Sang-ho, who won silver at the 2018 Games, lost by 0.01 seconds to Wild.
Swiss Nevin Galmarini, the Pyeongchang gold medallist, failed to get through the qualification round.
Zan Kosir from Slovenia, who has won three Olympic medals including bronze in PGS in both Pyeongchang and Sochi, was another favourite to miss out.
He spent 11 days in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 in Beijing, the isolation period affecting his mental state and preventing him from training.
“It was difficult because there’s nothing to do, you’re locked in your room,” Kosir said.
The competition took place at the Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, where the athletes were blessed with clear skies and relatively warm temperatures of -9 degrees Celsius (15°F).
In PGS, two boarders compete against one another on parallel courses, with the athletes holding the highest seeding from qualification choosing their preferred course.
(Reporting by Mari Saito and Winni Zhou; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Jacqueline Wong, Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond)