Ted didn't come out of nowhere, of course. Those of us who were in Park City at the time watched him grow up, watched him work his way from the Park City farm team to the Park City Ski Team and up through the junior ranks. We remember when he won silver in slalom at the 2004 Junior World Championships, helping him earn a spot on the 2005 U.S. Ski Team.
Now, seven years down the road from Torino, the image of Ted standing on the podium, with that infectious smile on his face, has become a familiar sight. Since Torino he has won the World Cup giant slalom title three times (2008, 2010 and 2011) and is the prohibitive favorite to win again this year. In a sport where races are often decided by hundredths of a second, he has been winning races by margins of up to two seconds.
So it didn't come as a shock when Ted won the giant slalom at the recent World Championships in Schladming, Austria. But the super G? That was another story. The super G is a speed event, where the advantage often goes to those whose bulk helps them carry momentum through flatter portions of the course. But Ted used his technical skills through the gates to overcome that disadvantage to win that event as well. Before the snow had settled, he had also won the super combined, finishing with three gold medals, more than any other skier in U.S. history.
In a country where football, basketball and baseball dominate the sports pages, and where skiing emerges into the public consciousness every four years, winter athletes like Ted Ligety don't get the recognition they deserve. He is more likely to be recognized on the streets of a small town in Austria, where alpine skiing is the national sport, than, say, in Chicago.
But the good news is that, a year from now, the Olympic Winter Games will be back in the national spotlight. And then, we hope, the rest of the country will come to celebrate Ted's accomplishments the way those of us in Park City have been celebrating for most of the last decade.
After the ski season winds down in Europe, you may spot Ted shredding through the trees with some of his friends at one of the local resorts. If so, rest on your poles for a second and enjoy it as he blazes past. It will be something to tell the grandkids about.