BEAVER CREEK — It won’t be easy for Ted Ligety to top last season, but the U.S. Ski Team’s “Mr. GS” is sure going to try.
Last winter, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist and four-time World Cup giant slalom champ had the season of his life, racking up six GS wins over the season, three super-G top 10 placings, and finishing off the World Championships with three golds in GS, super-G and super combined.
The hat trick made him the first man to accomplish this since Jean-Claude Killy did it 45 years ago at the 1968 World Championships. The GS wins also earned him another record as one of two men who have won that many GS titles in a single season. The other racer is Ingemar Stenmark.
He finished the season breaking the 1,000-point barrier for the first time in his career, placing him third in the overall standings.
“Those records aren’t really my goal,” said Ligety. “It’s really neat to be able to achieve them. Anytime you’re mentioned in the same sentence as Stenmark is very surreal for any ski racer because he’s at another level that I don’t think is ever achievable. So to be at least mentioned in the same breath as him is a really cool feeling and something that I never would have guessed would be possible.”
STILL ROOM TO IMPROVE
While 2013 was a breakthrough season, the Park City, Utah, native said he believes there’s still room for improvement in his ski racing.
The goal is to try to do just as well if not top it,” he said. “Obviously, I think World Championship results will be hard to top, but I think I definitely have a lot of room for improvement in the slalom and super-G.”
While it may be hard to top the 2013 accolades, Ligety hasn’t forgotten that this season is special because it is an Olympic year. At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, he left disappointed after failing to medal in any event and DNFing in the slalom. This year, he definitely has his eye on redemption and is looking for some medals to add to his 2006 gold in combined.
That road to Sochi, started in Soelden, Austria, in October with a giant slalom win and continues this weekend at the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey World Cup. After a frigid downhill training run on Thursday, Ligety said he hopes to make another run for a World Cup globe.
“I think my approach for World Cup and World Championships worked really well last year,” he said. “So the best way to prepare for the Olympics is to have a good World Cup season leading up to it. Obviously, I want to do well at the Olympics — that’s a big goal. But a big goal is winning the overall title as well.”
Keep an eye on Ligety this weekend on Birds of Prey. While he isn’t usually a top contender on the downhill, this year’s modified course, which removes some of the traditional course’s major steeps and integrates more wide turns, might play to his strengths.
He also won the giant slalom at Beaver Creek last year and placed fourth in the super-G.
Off the race course, Ligety is a self-professed backcountry powder hound (although he said he didn’t get to enjoy any of Beaver Creek’s powder earlier this week), and co-founder of ski outfitter company Shred. Still, he’s known for being no-frills and no-drama when it comes to his ski racing.
“I do the skiing because I love the skiing,” he said. “I’m not here for the other stuff.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at email@example.com.