US’ Ted Ligety feeling as close to old self as he has in a while | VailDaily.com

US’ Ted Ligety feeling as close to old self as he has in a while

Shauna Farnell
Special to the Daily

BEAVER CREEK — Ted Ligety has had more success at Beaver Creek than any other American World Cup ski racer.

He has landed on the podium here a whopping 10 times, including six wins. The last of these, however, was his FIS Alpine World Ski Championships gold medal back in 2015.

The past three years have been laden with injury for the 34-year-old Utah native. With a hip injury, torn knee ligaments and nagging back problems that led to numerous surgeries, the hiatus is understandable.

But now, for the first time in a long while, Ligety believes everything is in place to get back to his winning ways.

Getting strong again

"I feel I've gotten strong again this summer. I was able to do however many months in the gym and get back to where I want to be strength-wise," Ligety said at a news conference on Thursday, Nov. 29. "This was the first full prep period where I wasn't doing rehab and everything, so that's definitely advantageous, being able to train at full volume and push hard in different conditions. This year my body felt good, so I was able to get the full volume I was hoping to get in. It's definitely much better."

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It's common knowledge in alpine skiing that racers in speed events — downhill and super G — often get better with age. With the tech disciplines, particularly giant slalom, an upward trajectory is not nearly as common … but certainly not impossible.

Before Austrian Marcel Hirscher became the man of the hour, winning nearly every tech race he's started and also the World Cup overall title the last seven years, Ligety owned giant slalom. He was even referred to by competitors and just about everyone in the race industry as "Mr. GS."

"It's hard to be the Ted of 2012," Ligety said. "I was pretty good back then. But that's the goal … to get somewhere close to that. I wouldn't be out here if I didn't think I could still be competing for wins."

Ted and Marcel

The last time someone besides Ligety or Hirscher won the Beaver Creek GS was back in 2009 (Swiss racer Carlo Janka). Ligety won in 2010, followed by Hirscher in 2011, followed by five consecutive victories by Ligety. The last two times the event took place — 2015 and 2017 (it was canceled in 2016 due to lack of snow) — the Austrian again took the top step of the podium.

Ligety is not making any claims or threats about dethroning Hirscher, but he said if it was going to happen anywhere, this would be the most likely place.

"This is a hill that's always suited me well. I've had some of my best successes on this hill, so it's definitely one of the better chances, for sure," he said.

In addition to occupying the hot seat in the 2018 Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS World Cup giant slalom race scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 2, Ligety will also be competing in Saturday, Dec. 1's super-G, where he is also no stranger to the podium. He finished second in the Birds of Prey super-G in 2015, just before his litany of injuries.

"As far as World Cup super-Gs go, it's far and away the best one for guys with a tech background," he said. "What's awesome about this hill is it has a bit of everything — flats, steeps, rolls — every kind of feature. Everyone has fun skiing this hill, whether they're first or 60th. It has boded well for my style of skiing."