Ester Ledecka wasn’t meant to win Gold in the Super-G at the Winter Olympics.
In fact, it wasn’t really why she was at the Olympics at all.
The 22-year-old Czech athlete is known more for her skills on the snowboard than she is on a pair of skis, though, she saw no harm in competing in both at this year’s Olympics in PyeongChang.
She was ranked 43rd in the World Cup standings before the Olympics and was thought to be a much better chance for Gold in the snowboarding events.
And then, well, she won.
“I was wondering what just happened. Is this a kind of mistake?” she said in a press conference after the race.
“I was thinking OK they’re going to change the time, I’m going to wait for a little bit and they’re going to switch and put some seconds on.”
In fact, Ledecka was so surprised by the win, for the duration of the press conference after the race and the entirety of the day’s coverage, she did not take her goggles off.
“I was not prepared to be at this ceremony, and I don’t have any makeup,” she said.
Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svrluga wrote this week that Ledecka’s win was “absurd” and detailed exactly how much natural talent she must have to take out an event she is not known for:
Let’s put this plainly: This is absurd. It can’t happen. That Ledecka is even here trying to compete in these two sports — and to be sure, they are vastly different — is beyond unlikely. People put their lives into pursuing the Olympics in one or the other. There’s just not time — not in the day, not in a month, not in a calendar year — to do both.
In short: Ester Ledecka is so talented, so athletic, so brilliant and capable and skilled, she competes at the Olympics in two events, only to accidentally win Gold in the one she hadn’t prepared for.
And yet, at the end of the day, Ester Ledecka lives in a world that tells her her currency and value is in how she looks, and because of this, no grand performance on a world stage will trump the knowledge that as a woman, the world can still make you feel like you’re not enough.
Esther Ledeka had every right to not where makeup in a press conference she wasn’t prepared for. She has every right to choose how she presents herself to the world.
It’s just a shame it’s that same world that made her feel, despite everything she’s ever worked for, that it’s her face we’ll scrutinise the most.