Ted Ligety is, without question, the best giant slalom specialist in the world today, and will be hot favourite to claim gold in his favourite event at Sochi 2014. He is renowned for his peerless technique, but his journey to the top of his sport was by no means easy, and his early days on the slopes of his native Park City resort in Utah (USA) served as a school of hard knocks. “Getting beat all the time and never being the best growing up pushed me to work super hard and forced me to be a student of the sport,” he explains.
It was precisely his ability to analyse poor performances that enabled him to understand what he needed to do to improve, and this, together with his determination to succeed, ensured his progress: “I’m really competitive,” he admits, “so I like to be beating the other guys, that’s something that drives me.”
Ligety won his first major international title in memorable fashion aged just 21, when he won the gold medal in the combined at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, having finished a lowly 32nd in the downhill before flying through the slalom course to push himself to the top of the leader board!
“After that victory at the Olympic Games, I didn’t want to be known as a one-hit wonder so I pushed myself really hard to reach another level,” he explains. Nobody could accuse him of that: since 2006 he has amassed a total of 18 FIS World Cup victories, as well as claiming the FIS Giant Slalom Crystal Globe in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013.
When new regulations came into force in 2012-2013 season, which saw the giant slalom skis increased in length (from 185cm to 195cm) and in minimum side-cut radius(from 27m to 40m), it was Ligety who adapted best to the change, and he underlined his dominance in the season’s curtain-raiser on 28 October at Sölden, securing victory by a record margin of 2.75 seconds over his nearest rival.
At the World Championships at Schladming in February 2013, Ligety made the headlines yet again when, in addition to retaining his giant slalom title, he also won the super-G and the super combined, becoming the first Alpine skier to win three gold medals in a major international competition since Jean-Claude Killy’s triple Olympic gold in 1968!
Last winter, he had the opportunity to train on the Rosa Khutor piste that will be used for the giant slalom at Sochi 2014, which, unusually, has a completion time of 1 minute 30 to 1 minute 45 seconds, around 30 seconds more than a traditional World Cup course.
On 27 October 2013 at Sölden, Ligety opened the 2013-2014 World Cup season with another impressive victory in the giant, to get his Olympic preparations off to an ideal start.
"The Games are bigger than our sport, bigger than all of us. Knowing that you’re representing your country is really cool, Skiing is an individual sport, you race for yourself, but at the Games, you are part of a Fantastic team spirit. There is a great camaraderie and it’s really great to be part of that.”
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