Ligety may be on course for big things at Sochi games
January 18, 2014
BEAVER CREEK — Ted Ligety goes by many a nickname these days — from "Teddy Ball Game" for his cool under pressure, to "Shred" for his ability to carve up a course and lately to "Mr. GS," which his rivals dubbed him for his domination in the giant slalom.
Whatever they call him, the U.S. skier is one of the world's best and the cameras will be zoomed in tight on him at the Sochi Games next month.
Not that Ligety particularly wants all that attention.
He's more of your mellow, 'surfer dude' type who considers any day he can't at least swoosh through waist-deep powder a wasted opportunity.
Ligety quickly dismisses the notion that all eyes will be on him in Russia with a casual wave of a hand.
He's all about speed, not the spotlight.
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"I don't do ski racing to be famous," said Ligety, who won gold at the 2006 Turin Games in the combined only to miss out on a medal four years later in Vancouver, finishing no higher than fifth. "I do this because I love it. This is fun."
Ligety has the resume, the talent, the charisma to be as big of name in the sport as, say, Lindsey Vonn, who's sitting out these Olympics after recently undergoing knee surgery. But cover shots on trendy magazines hold no appeal for the 29-year-old from Park City, Utah. And walking the red carpet at an extravagant event isn't exactly Ligety's thing.
No, he's all skiing, all the time.
"Ted's focused on what he needs to do to not lose. He's amazing that way," U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick said. "He's so professional in everything he does, in terms of getting up in the morning, warming up, making sure his service guys have the perfect setup, training his butt off, coming off the hill and talking to the service guys — 'OK, this is what we have to adjust' — getting in on the bike to recover, eating the right foods.
"He does all those things in such a professional way."
That's why he's earned the moniker "Mr. GS" among his peers, a label Austria's Marcel Hirscher, the reigning World Cup overall champion, gave to him.
Bestowed with good reason, too.
For a while there, Ligety was almost unbeatable in the giant slalom. He had a stretch where he captured four straight World Cup giant slalom races dating back to last season, the first to accomplish that since Italy's Alberto Tomba in 1991. The streak was halted on Dec. 14 in Val d'Isere, France, when Ligety didn't finish the first run.
"I feel very confident in my skiing," Ligety said. "I know I have a good chance to win any race I start."
That wasn't exactly the case heading into the 2012-13 season.
See, the International Ski Federation altered the hourglass configuration of the GS skis, essentially leveling the playing field in the name of safety after years of supremacy by Ligety.
Ligety was highly agitated about the rule change. He even voiced his displeasure in a rather terse blog post.
Didn't do much good, though. But he made his point this way: He mastered the new design of GS skis quicker than anyone and captured his fourth overall GS title last season. He even won a race in Austria by 2.75-second margin, a landslide in races usually determined by fractions of a second.
Of course, Ligety will be the favorite in the GS going into Sochi. Maybe in a few other events, too. After all, he did win the super-combined in Wengen, Switzerland, on Friday for his first World Cup win outside the GS event.
In years past, Ligety was viewed as more of a technical specialist. But he shattered that myth last season at the world championships by winning the super-G, super-combined and defending his title in the giant slalom. He was the first male skier to win three events since French great Jean-Claude Killy took home four golds at the '68 world championships.
That's some pretty elite company.
"There's no questioning Ted's ability or his brain," teammate Bode Miller said. "He's smart and he's unique in that he takes responsibility for his situation. That's what has allowed him to be successful.
"He has no one to blame for his success except himself."
Ligety's biggest push may just be from Miller, especially with the five-time Olympic medalist rounding back into shape after missing last season with a knee injury. These two have an intriguing relationship, almost a little brother trying to upstage big brother sort of rivalry. Ligety is ultra-competitive with Miller.
"He fouls me harder than anybody else on the basketball court. He tries to take me out in soccer," said Miller, who finished runner-up to Ligety during a giant slalom race in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Dec. 8. "He's just very competitive."
No offense, but Ligety is that way with everyone.
"It's the nature of the beast playing sports on the ski team, and how competitive all of us are," Ligety said. "I want to beat everybody's time. We're all like that. Definitely because Bode is Bode and he has been so successful. He's a guy that everyone looks up to. I guess you compete a little bit more with a guy like that."
Although Ligety's not exactly a big fan of fame, it has opened some doors for him, like launching his own company, Shred, which specializes in goggles, helmets, sunglasses and outerwear. He's also appeared in a few commercials.
"There are definitely perks," he said, grinning, "to being a good ski racer."