Ledecka and Anderson victorious in first Bansko PGS
Ester Ledecka (CZE) and Jasey Jay Anderson (CAN) have claimed victory in the first of two parallel giant slalom races scheduled in Bansko this weekend.
It was a race which had it all as the opening event of this three-day snowboard-mania in Bulgaria was not only the penultimate test under competition conditions prior to the up-coming Olympic Winter Games but also still decisive for some teams to finally name their roster for PyeongChang 2018.
However, with the World Cup title race in full swing athletes were focused to fight for some precious points while facing a blue bird sky and, unfortunately, some rough snow conditions which gave them some hard times during the cold early morning qualifiers.
But when the top-16 ladies and men finally entered the knock out rounds, everything was set for a thrilling head to head action which could make for some decent Hollywood plots.
Those who love happy ends definitely got their worth today, when Ester Ledecka, right back from a cold which had sidelined her from competing and forced her to sit out last Sunday's PGS event in Rogla, kept the momentum from four wins in a row on the PGS World Cup circuit to make it five out of five parallel giant slalom races she had entered this season.
By beating Selina Joerg from Germany in the big final, she therefore extended her comfortable lead in the World Cup standings.
“It was a great day. I'm really happy that I was able to race again after being sick the last days. It was a lot of fighting today, and I'm happy that I was able to fight to the end”, she said.
However, the most dominant alpine snowboarder of this season also had the luck when she needed it the most when her strongest pursuer in the World Cup standings Ramona Hofmeister (GER) gave her some headaches in the semis.
The Germany racer, who had earned her career's first two World Cup wins over the course of the last days, had already gained some lead on Ledecka when a toe edge mistake dashed all hopes of becoming the first woman to beat Ledecka in a PGS duel this winter.
However, earning the third rank in the small finals against Alena Zavarzina (RUS) was a little bit of a redemption for Hofmeister:
“It still gets me a bit angry when I think of this. I definitely threw away a better result. But finishing third did make up for it. I could get used to finish on the podium,” the 21-year-old Bavarian said after here fourth top-3 result this season.
While things kind of went as expected in the women's competition, the men's event provided an “always believe in yourself” story as one rider added a totally surprising and unexpected new chapter to the snowboard history books.
Jasey Jay Anderson, no less than the 2010 Olympic Champion, became the oldest rider ever to win a Snowboard World Cup at the age of 42.
The oldest racer in the field edged off World Cup leader Nevin Galmarini (SUI) to the second rank taking home his career's 28th win in his 257th start.
Almost eight years after his last triumph, the four-time World Champion from Mont-Tremblant, QC is therefore finally back to winning ways right before entering his sixth Olympic Winter Games.
“You know, unfortunately I'm not preparing for victory. I have been developing equipment for eight years now, and finally in Rogla I was able to get a touch on something I was really sure of. Here, with these conditions, I was able to put it to a real test. I didn't know that I still have the legs for this but I guess I still do. Now, with the boards finally getting better, I'm looking forward to the Olympics and something big,” he explained.
And the winter sport's pinnacle event next month will for sure become an historical one as Anderson will then be the only rider who will have competed in all Olympics since snowboarding was added to the programme back in 1998.
In an all Italian small final Edwin Coratti had the whip hand over his teammate Mirko Felicetti.
While the snowboard cross athletes will take over centre stage in Bulgaria tomorrow with a SBX Sprint World Cup event with the finals slated for 11:30 CET, the raceboarders will come back on Sunday for a second race in Bansko with the finals scheduled for 13:00 CET.