Ted Ligety reflects on success at World Championships
You know the story by now — sitting in fifth place after the first run of giant slalom at World Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, last week, Ted Ligety put together a near-perfect second run to launch himself into first place and claim his third-straight giant slalom World Championships gold medal.
You also know the records he set — the Park City native is the first person to ever win three-straight GS World Championships gold medals and now holds the record for the most World Championships medals for an American skier with seven.
On Wednesday morning, while waiting in the airport for a flight that would take him back to Europe to finish out the alpine World Cup schedule, Ligety reflected on the week he had at Worlds, where he also snagged a bronze medal in the combined event.
"It was pretty cool," he said. "I didn’t really think about the records going in there, but it’s pretty cool that I’ve been able to defend the world title three times. I’m super proud of that — as a kid, that’s never something I thought I’d do. And to set the record for most medals by an American — that’s not something I thought I’d be doing, either."
After battling his way through a rough season overall, Ligety said he came to Beaver Creek looking for a little bit of redemption. He wanted to make sure this season didn’t become a lost one.
"Winning the GS in Worlds was definitely the biggest goal of my season," he said. "This season hasn’t been going as well as I wanted it to, so I was looking to World Championships to save my season, in some ways."
Though he admits he felt some outside pressure to defend his title, he said it was nothing compared to the pressure he puts on himself. At the end of the day, results aside, he said he wanted to make sure he skied a strong race.
"I just wanted to go out and ski the way I knew I could ski and ski a race I could be proud of," he said.
After the first of two GS runs, he found himself in fifth place — not a great start, but not the end of the world, either.
"Being in fifth place, .24 seconds back, is actually a good place to be," Ligety said.
When you know a course like Ligety knows Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey course, though, you can get away with sitting in fifth place after one run. He knew exactly what needed to be done on his second run and executed his plan to perfection.
"The course lined up a lot better for me," he said of his second run. "I knew where I could go super hard and take a lot of risks and where I had to be more tactical."
After crossing the line well ahead of the pack and watching the next three skiers fail to come close to his time, Ligety said he was feeling pretty good. But that feeling was short-lived, as his rival, Austrian Marcel Hirscher, was the last skier to come down the hill.
Hirscher’s splits stayed ahead of Ligety’s through most of the course and he held his lead through the final on-course timer. But, when Hirscher’s final time showed up on the screen in the finish area, Ligety’s was a hair better (2:34.16 for Ligety and 2:34.61 for Hirscher), giving him the gold medal and sending the home-country crowd into a frenzy.
"The crowds for the whole entire Championships were awesome," Ligety said. "It was crazy to have that many fans at races in America. Having my friends and family there was great and to have some of the Park City Ski Team kids there was awesome, too."
Beating Hirscher, the leader in the World Cup overall standings, on U.S. soil was exhilarating for Ligety.
"Marcel’s going to go down as one of the all-time greats, that’s for sure," he said. "Any day you can beat him is a good day. We have a good, friendly rivalry."
Ligety doesn’t have much time to regroup after his big win, though. The U.S. Alpine Team is in Saalbach, Austria, this weekend for a World Cup competition. Ligety said his motivation at this point of the season is trying to add a few more World Cup gold medals to his collection.
"At this point, I’m a ways back in the GS standings," he said. "It’s about where I was last year as well. I feel like I still have a chance at that, but I know I’m going to have to win all the races."
Even if he doesn’t win the GS World Cup globe, which he’s done five times in his career already, he still feels like he can consider this season a success if he skis well in the remaining events.
"[The GS globe] is the big goal," he said. "It’s obviously not a super-likely outcome, but it’s possible. We have five or six more weekends of racing, though — then we’re done. I just want to finish strong, score a bunch of points and win some races."
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