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Ligety is golden

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

Just as things started to look bleak for the struggling U.S. Ski team in Turin, Park City’s Ted Ligety went out on Tuesday and turned everything golden finishing first in the men’s combined event (downhill and two slalom runs) at the Colle venue in Sestriere, Italy.

Ligety was in distant 22nd place after the downhill portion of the event with a time of 1 minute and 41.42 seconds far behind teammate Bode Miller (Breton Woods, N.H.) who led the field. But the slalom specialist made a decisive comeback finishing in 1:27.93 after two slalom runs. Ligety captured the gold medal with a combined time of 3:09.35.

"I put down two really solid runs, but I can’t’s believe I’m an Olympic champion," said the 21-year old Olympic rookie in an interview with the U.S. Ski Team after the race. "I don’t understand it."

The magnitude of his accomplishment seemingly had yet to set in with Ligety following the race, but is sure to when he has his gold medal around his neck.

"I don’t even know what’s happening right now for sure," Ligety said. "This is unbelievable."

Tuesday morning, the excitement had already spread in Park City.

Ligety grew up racing for the Park City Ski Team before joining the U.S. Ski Team. As soon as The Park City Ski Team saw the results on the Internet the office went into a frenzy.

"Amazing. It was a total surprise," said Park City Ski Team director Dave Galusha, who spent the afternoon talking to the media. "To have him come from this and he’s an Olympic gold medallist. It’s a career capper."

Ligety is the first Olympic medallist Galusha has coached. Galusha said that Ligety was a decent ski racer as a junior, but began producing big results as his body matured at age 17 or 18. Galusha had been in contact with Ligety via email prior to the race and said that Ligety was fairly confident going into Tuesday’s race.

"He did express that he knew he’d be nervous and wasn’t sure how he’d perform," Galusha said. "Looks like pretty well."

The chaos was also evident at the Prudential Utah Real Estate office where Ted’s parents Cyndi Sharp and Bill Ligety both work. Coworker Dave Ramaley received an alert on his computer that Ted had won and he immediately began running around the office announcing the results. He even interrupted a closed-door meeting with the company’s general manager Dougan Jones and general manager Chris Robinson to blurt out the news. They both screamed. Ramaley also sent out a call and email to all the agents in the company declaring Ligety’s victory.

"It was fantastic," Ramaley said.

Winter School head Rob Clayton was also full of praise for his former student.

"Isn’t that tremendous?" he said. "It couldn’t be better. It’s completely exciting. It couldn’t have come at a better time."

Clayton and Galusha were also sure to mention how enjoyable and smart Ligety was as a youth growing up in Park City.

"Ted was, in terms of sense of humor, a strong presence here and great to be around," Galusha said.

Right after the win, Park City Mayor Dana Williams commented on how well the win reflects on both Ligety and the city.

"It’s just that that’s one of the truly great stories, an example of everything coming together," Williams said. "Park City has basically set up a way in which people who want to become Olympians have an opportunity to do that."

Williams noted that the U.S. Ski Team’s headquarters are in Park City. He also said that kids can buy discounted ski passes and he highlighted the work of the Park City Ski Education Foundation.

City Hall may mark Ligety’s Olympic victory but Williams was unsure how as of yet.

"We’ll certainly do something to honor him. That’s a big, big moment for a local kid," Williams said.

Ligety also has a good shot at winning another medal in the slalom on Feb. 25. He is no stranger to the top of the podium in World Cup slalom races, and with a smaller field at the Olympics, his chances of performing well are even greater.

"What people don’t realize is that all the top racers are there [at World Cups]. In the Olympics, it’s not as deep a field," Galusha said. "If he skis his best slalom, he is definitely competitive with anyone there."

Ivica Kostelic of Croatia won the silver medal with a time of 3:09.88. Austrian Rainer Schoenfelder took the bronze with a 3:10.67 finish.

Miller was disqualified from the competition after straddling gate 42 in his first slalom run. After watching the replay, Miller conceded that the call was correct.

"I felt sorry for him [Miller]," Ligety told the U.S. Ski Team. "I was really bummed out for him."

American skier Scott Macartney (Redmond, Wash.) finished 16th with a time of 3:13.05 and Utahn Steven Nyman of Orem turned in a 3:22.68 finish, putting him in 29th place.

For results and related topics, log onto http://www.torino2006.org


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