Record editorial: The legacy of Ligety
On the morning of Feb. 14, 2006, the notion that Ted Ligety was destined to become one of the greatest American alpine skiers of all time would have seemed far-fetched.
A 21-year-old Parkite appearing in his first Olympics, Ligety’s accomplishments in international competition were scant: three World Cup podiums and no victories. He was not considered a serious threat to win a medal in the alpine combined event that day, having entered the Games in Turin, Italy, overshadowed by more seasoned competitors like American superstar Bode Miller and Austrian favorite Benjamin Raich.
But when Ligety clicked into his skis, he stunned the ski racing world, his supporters back home and even himself. He was “as shocked as we are,” his parents told The Park Record after he captured Olympic gold, becoming the first American male alpine skier to do so since 1994.
As Parkites and ski racing enthusiasts know now, the performance was no fluke. It was his breakout, launching him to stardom and jumpstarting a career that saw him ascend to heights few U.S. skiers have ever reached — a career that will soon come to a close. Ligety announced on Tuesday that the giant slalom race at the World Championships in Cortina, Italy, later this month will be his last.
As he retires, Ligety leaves behind a colossal legacy in his hometown. Many Parkites have been following him since the beginning, even before he broke onto the U.S. Ski Team a few years after graduating from the Winter Sports School. Others became aware of his exploits later, when he won the gold in 2006 and became known as “Mr. GS” for his dominance in giant slalom.
Throughout his career we have marveled at his skills, delighted in his successes and gained inspiration from his dedication. We have also taken pride in his accomplishments on the belief that the community, in at least some small way, helped mold him into the competitor he became.
Likewise, Ligety’s place in the upper echelons of his sport is secure. One need only scan his list of achievements to understand that his name will long be remembered in the annals of ski racing. He brought home two Olympic golds (the other coming in giant slalom during the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia). He captured five World Championship golds and a pair of bronze medals. He climbed onto 52 World Cup podiums, 25 times standing at the very top.
And those credentials only hint at his influence on the sport and the next generation of American skiing stars who grew up wanting to shred like Ted.
Ligety’s decision to step away does not come as a surprise. His last World Championship medal came in 2015, and at 36, he has important priorities beyond ski racing. He has a wife and three young children and has said he is ready to leave the demands that come with being a world-class athlete behind to spend more time with them.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not bittersweet for those who have enjoyed watching him compete. Skiing fans all over the globe will miss seeing him charge out of the starting gate and carve down the course. And when the 2022 Winter Games begin, Parkites will lament not being able to cheer him on at an Olympics for the first time in nearly two decades.
But he has more than earned a happy retirement, as well as placement on a unique pedestal among Park City’s winter sports athletes. He is a local boy who made good, a hometown hero who has always lived up to the phrase.
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