Opinionated Ligety ready for weekend
BEAVER CREEK – A male American skier is railing against the establishment at this week’s Birds of Prey World Cup races.
Surprisingly, this article is not about Bode Miller. It’s mild-mannered, Clark Kent-like Ted Ligety of all people.
OK, no one will ever play George Thorogood and the Destroyers’ “Bad to the Bone,” when Ligety enters a room. Yet it’s definitely different when Ligety, who is, by all accounts, is a pretty laid-back guy, goes off on a riff on the International Ski Federation’s (FIS) proposed rules changes for giant-slalom skis for the upcoming 2012-13 season.
“It’s something I’m passionate about,” Ligety said. “It’s going to be a tragedy for the sport if it happens, especially for the next generation of kids coming up. Ski racing already has to compete with a lot with the freeskiing side of things and with a lot of other sports. If you take away the fun aspect of it, it’s going to ruin it for a lot of kids.”
FIS wants a larger minimum radius for carved GS skis because it thinks it will reduce injuries. Ligety is among the majority of tour skiers who oppose this change. His view is that carved skis, introduced in the 90s, get people into skiing more easily and make the sport more fun, and he’s really skeptical of FIS’s contention that they make the sport more dangerous.
He should know. Ligety is the reigning World Cup GS champ. He’s won the discipline globe three times in his career (2008, 2009 and 2011) and has all nine of his wins, the most recent of which came in Soelden, Austria, in the World Cup opener in October, in GS and is the defending champion for Sunday’s Birds of Prey giant slalom. He also took home a GS gold medal in the 2011 Worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
“I know it’s going to take away the fun aspect for me,” Ligety said Wednesday – he didn’t participate in downhill training Thursday, electing to work, naturally, on his GS skiing. “Obviously, I’m still going to do it and still be able to be fast. It’s not going to have the same level of fun. It’s not going to be safer. The whole point of doing it is for safety, and it plain will not be safer. That’s the fact of the matter.”
Ligety won’t be confused with an activist anytime soon, but he wrote on his website, http://www.tedligety.com, that 41 of 50 World Cup skiers signed a petition recently, protesting the proposed rule changes. (By the way, check out the site to watch a fun clip of Ligety, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal and James Helm having some fun at Soelden.)
Said clip is generally what sees from Ligety annually at Birds of Prey. Whereas Miller is usually at the center of something – if he’s not, that’s a surprise – while Ligety goes about his business.
Now 27, he’s gone from being the surprise winner of the Olympic combined in 2006 during the Torino, Italy, Winter Olympics to regular tour winner. He ripped off three-straight wins to start the GS season (Beaver Creek, Val d’Isere, France, and Alta Badia, Italy) last year. The 300 points right there helped him to edge Svindal for GS crown, 383-306.
Of course, Ligety wouldn’t mind duplicating that triple, with Soelden in the bank and the next two giant slaloms being held right here in Beaver Creek Sunday and Tuesday. (Next weekend’s men’s technical events in Val d’Isere were moved here Wednesday by FIS because of a lack of snow in France.)
“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Ligety said. “Moving Val d’Isere to here? This is one of my favorite GS hills in front of the home crowd, so I’m very excited to do some races here.
“It’s definitely nice knowing you’ve done well here in the past. Beaver Creek’s always special because a bunch of my friends and family come out here. It’s cool in that sense.”
The next step for Ligety is challenging for the overall. He finished ninth last year and has been as high as fifth in 2008. That year, he crushed the field in GS (485 points), but also picked up 274 in slalom, good for ninth, and 131 (seventh) in the combined.
He admits that downhill will never be a source of points for him, except as part of a combined race. The priority is jacking up his slalom, where he earned only 24 points last year.
“I just have to be in a good setup and get to the finish line,” he said.
Ligety will also be going in the super-G Saturday here. In his three World Cup starts in super-G here, he was in the points twice, including a seventh-place finish in 2008.
“Overall is my big goal for the rest of my career,” Ligety said. “Slalom is my main ticket for that. I need to make some progress there to get back to where I was several years ago. And super-G is getting better and better. Obviously, I had a real good year a couple of years ago in that sense. I feel like I have good potential (in super-G) on the right hills (with) the right course preparation.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.