February 20, 2018 / 1:26 PM / 4 months ago

Olympics-Alpine skiing-Steely Ledecka destined for glory, first coach says

PRAGUE, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Even as a five-year-old at her first training session Czech Ester Ledecka showed the competitive drive that would carry her to a shock Olympic Alpine skiing gold medal in Pyeongchang, according to her first coach.

Jan Lukas, who trained Ledecka from the ages of 5-11 at Ski Klub Spindl, said he could see early on that she had the family support and steely determination required to make it to the top.

"Her parents supported her, her grandparents supported her - they would stand for long hours at the foot of the slopes," Lukas told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"She was competitive, she was really keen on it and that is the most important thing... You can be talented, but if you are lazy, than it is good for nothing. That must go hand in hand, the talents and hard work," he said.

The 22-year-old Ledecka, who will also compete in the snowboard parallel giant slalom starting on Thursday, produced one of the biggest upsets of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics when she won the super-G on Saturday.

The victory sent Czech media into a frenzy with Ledecka's image plastered over the front pages of newspapers and television repeating her run to a first gold among only three Olympic Alpine skiing medals for a country with a population of 10.6 million.

Lukas missed his former pupil's medal-winning run and assumed she had won gold in her preferred sport of snowboarding.

"My first thought was 'Oh, have they've done the snowboard race already?'," Lukas said from the mountain resort of Spindleruv Mlyn, located about 150 kilometres from Prague.

"We did it in a playful way with the kids, but we were also three times a week on that slope and Ester would then go for more with her parents. And she did both skis and snowboard," Lukas said.

The coach stressed how Ledecka's family was always there to support her and her dad Janek, a famous rock musician, learned to ski when his daughter started training.

Her grandfather Jan Klapac - a member of the 1972 world champion Czechoslovak ice hockey team and Olympic silver medalist - also provided inspiration for Ledecka.

"We did not expect such success. We are now sitting with my wife debating what a journey Ester has had to go through. And what effort it took," he told CTK news agency. (Reporting by Robert Muller, Editing by Michael Kahn and Ed Osmond)

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