Ligety comes into World Championships defending three gold medals
Special to the Daily
BEAVER CREEK — When Ted Ligety’s parents see their son’s image on all the official graphics for the Birds of Prey World Cup races at Beaver Creek, they can’t help but do a double take.
“It’s pretty crazy. It’s sort of surreal I guess,” said Ted’s mom, Cyndi Sharp, glancing at the VIP credential around her neck that sports the signature graphic of her son ripping around a giant slalom gate. This was in December after Ligety, 30, had just won his fifth consecutive GS race at Beaver Creek — something nobody had ever done and a feat Ligety achieved with a broken wrist.
“It’s really cool to be on the graphic, being the poster boy if you will,” Ligety said after his win. “Being able to respond to that is great.”
Of course, Ligety hopes to do it again on the same hill for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Having dominated the Beaver Creek giant slalom course, not to mention going into 2015 as the reigning world GS champion and Olympic GS champion, Ligety is unquestionably the favorite.
“We’re really excited to come back here,” Ligety said. “It’s rare we get a race in the U.S. no matter what, much less the World Championships.”
Even though the World Championships only happen every two years and have not been on U.S. snow since 1999, when they again take place at Vail and Beaver Creek, they don’t exactly present a career climax for Ligety, who has landed two Olympic gold medals and a whopping three gold medals from the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria. These are tough acts to follow, indeed.
“The last time anyone won three World Championship medals in the same place was Jean-Claude Killy in 1968,” said Ted’s dad, Bill Ligety. “So the chances that Ted can do that again are just about zero. It’s just statistically so slim. He’ll just have to ski his best and see how it all comes out.”
December’s victory at Beaver Creek was Ligety’s most recent coming into the Championships although he did finish second to Austrian powerhouse Marcel Hirscher in Are, Sweden, and in Alta Badia, Italy. Hirscher and Ligety often go head-to-head and swap the first and second steps on the GS podium.
“It’s great for all young skiers to watch him,” Hirscher said of Ligety after finishing second to the American in Beaver Creek in December. “It doesn’t matter if he skis with one pole, one ski or no skis. … Ted is the best.”
A sizable entourage of friends and family are coming to see Ted defend his World Championship titles this February. Since they missed his triple gold performance in Schladming, Austria, (“If he had told us what he was going to do, we would have been there!” his dad said.) his parents are especially excited to return with a big crew from Park City. Of course, they will arrive with a solid case of the jitters, too.
“It’s nerve-racking on different accounts. For the speed events we just want him to get through it safely. For the tech events we want him to … well, win,” his mom said, laughing. “There’s always pressure. I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself.”
When it comes to seeking comfort from Mom and Dad — say, asking or receiving parental advice — Ligety has none of it.
“No. Never. Heavens no,” his mom said. “If I go, ‘Why don’t you get a little closer to the gate?’ he goes, ‘Mom, you have no idea what you’re talking about.’”
The last big request Ligety made of his parents was for $10,000 to compete on the U.S. development team, back when few people had hope that he’d ever make waves as a ski racer. That was in 2003, before Ligety won his first Olympic gold medal in 2006 and went on to become the best American giant slalom skier in history.
“He’s 30 years old. He has proven that he knows what he’s doing. Besides, what 30-year-old Olympic and world champion asks their parents for advice?” his father said.