All eyes on snow queen Ester Ledecka in Snowboard World Cup opener
Ester Ledecka is back on the board!
Nine months after re-writing the record books with victory in both the Alpine Super-G skiing and Parallel Giant Slalom snowboarding at PyeongChang, all eyes will be on the Czech in the first FIS Snowboard World Cup event of the year.
The ski and snowboard Olympic champion has stated that she wishes to juggle both ski racing and snowboarding again this season.
While the ski season is already in full flow, the 23-year-old will ditch the skis for the board in Carezza on Thursday.
The Snowboarding World Cup second leg continues just a day later in Cortina d’Ampezzo on Friday and Saturday.
"It will be hard work switching to snowboarding, but I hope we'll be able to handle everything the way we've planned," she told powder.com.
The history-making Ester Ledecka: PyeongChang's 'Snow Queen'
The history-making Ester Ledecka: PyeongChang's 'Snow Queen'Ester Ledecka made history when she won gold in the alpine skiing Super-G and the snowboard parallel giant slalom at PyeongChang 2018.
Tough start to the season
In truth, the Italian Alps fresh air may provide some respite for the Czech snow queen, who has struggled to make her mark on skis following her shock Winter Olympic victory in Korea.
While two-time Olympic champ Mikaela Shiffrin has dominated proceedings, Ledecka is currently languishing back in 43rd overall in the Alpine Skiing World Cup rankings.
She finished 10th in the downhill at Lake Louise, before sealing 29th position in the Super-G St. Moritz last weekend.
Despite her limited experience in Super-G, Ledecka is still hard on herself.
"I have raced ten times in Super-G? It is nothing. I have to work harder,” she told powder.com.
“There are still things I can improve upon, not only in skiing, but in snowboarding too.”
Ledecka's strongest suit
It should be a different story on the snowboard.
The Prague-born shredder has been the sport's leading light in recent memory, amassing an avalanche of achievements.
With two World Championship golds, one silver, and three World Cup titles alongside her Olympic gold medal, the 23-year-old starts this season as the early favourite.
Her victory in last year's World Cup included six Parallel Grand Slalom victories, including both of the opening two Italian events.
Ominous signs indeed for her rivals.
Rivals to Ledecka's throne
While beating Ledecka will prove difficult, two of her rivals in particular will be hoping to end her reign.
Olympic silver medallist Selina Joerg finished second in the parallel overall competition last year.
The 30-year-old German demonstrated impressive consistency last year in both the slalom and the parallel giant slalom, but will be hoping to arrest her habit of under performing in her final run.
Meanwhile fellow German Ramona Hofmeister picked up third-placed finishes in both the Olympics and the World Cup standings.
However the 22-year-old's participation in the opener remains uncertain, following hand surgery in April and a herniated disc injury in September.
2018/19 FIS Snowboarding Parallel World Cup
- 13 December - Carezza (Italy)
- 14-15 December - Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy)
- 8-9 January - Bad Gastein (Austria)
- 19 January - Rogla (Slovenia)
- 26-27 January - Moscow (Russia)
- 16-17 February - PyeongChang (Korea)
- 23-24 February - Secret Garden (China)
- 9 March - Scuol (Switzerland)
- 23-24 March - Winterberg (Germ)
*Schedule subject to change.