Stein and Ted
Park Record columnist
He stood on the stage looking out at the sea of fans. Memories came rushing back to that day at Oslo in 1952 when he became an Olympic champion. Thoughts of that week two years later when he made history winning three World Championship gold medals in Sweden came clearly into view. In his 85 years, though, what has brought true joy to him is watching the accomplishments of others. Standing amidst hundreds of fans at Park City Mountain Resort Saturday, Stein Eriksen had never been prouder than he was in putting his arm around hometown hero Ted Ligety to welcome him back to town.
Ted may not quite have the collection of gold, silver, pewter and crystal that anchors the lobby trophy case at Stein Eriksen Lodge. But pretty soon Park City Mountain Resort will need to build a similar display. His collection of three World Championship gold medals, four Audi FIS World Cup crystal globes and the assorted trophies from just his six World Cup wins this season are starting to create a storage problem.
For Stein it was less about Ted’s crystal and gold. It was more about heart. And it was about humility, calling him a "gentle winner."
It’s hard to be humble when you are as accomplished at your craft as is Ted Ligety. But that’s what made Saturday’s hometown celebration so special. Ted is a Parkite, just like all of us. He’s the kid we all watched growing up ripping runs down Willy’s and dropping into powder stashes off Jupiter. He is one of us.
Parents Bill and Cyndi reminisced about Ted growing up in Park City, just like any other kid. Ted recalled his heroes like Alberto Tomba, whom he watched win at America’s Opening. He was just like any other kid on the Park City Ski Team. As Ted scanned the awestruck eyes of the kids in the crowd many proudly wearing Shred helmets he could see the stars of the future.
The formula for success is pretty basic. But it takes hard work. That’s one element that separated Ted from others. "When I think of Ted, I think of him working out at the Center of Excellence, just working harder than anyone else," said U.S. Ski Team President and CEO Bill Marolt.
When the equipment rules of his sport changed a year ago, Ted sucked it up and worked harder than anyone else learning the new skis. He didn’t need to use them in the finale last season, but he did and he won!
There were no easy races for Ted Ligety this year. "They’re all hard every run," he said. That’s what it takes to be a champion.
Powdr Corp. Senior Vice President Herwig Demschar, who coached great champions like Rudi Nierlich and Picabo Street, drew gasps from the crowd when he said, "Ted Ligety is not a hero. No, he’s a legend."
It’s a fact that’s hard to dispute. He’s now in a league with the likes of Jean-Claude Killy, Toni Sailer, Stein Eriksen and Ingemar Stenmark.
Even legends make time for their fans. The endless line of autograph seekers represented a cross section of the sport: a family from New York who came out just to see Ted; a man from Sweden who changed his flight home just to stay an extra day to meet Ted; and a Park City Ski Team athlete who was proud to tell Ted that he had his old locker.
It was as much about the people there as it was about Ted. "Fans, friends, family that’s what Olympism is all about," said Marolt.
Rave all you want about the broad popularity of our American sports of football, baseball and basketball. There’s something special about Olympic sport something gratifying about the values Olympic athletes like Ted Ligety represent.
As Stein Eriksen looked out at the young racers packed around the stage, he gave them one bit of parting advice. "Keep this in your mind: ‘I want to be just like Ted.’"
That’s how legends are made!
One of the most experienced communications professionals in skiing, Tom Kelly is a veteran of eight Olympics and serves as vice president, Communications, for the Park City-based U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. A Wisconsin native, he and his wife Carole Duh have lived in Park City since 1988 when he’s not traveling the world with the team.
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