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Ted Ligety of Park City, Utah, who won five times during the regular World Cup season on Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey run and also collected a giant slalom World Championship gold medal here, is retiring after a legendary career. Here’s the press release from the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team:
Two-time Olympic champion and Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team athlete Ted Ligety has announced his retirement, capping a storied 17-year career. Ligety announced on Tuesday that he will stand in the start gate one final time on the world stage in the giant slalom at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy on Feb. 19th.
Ligety’s career started with an unconventional path, but the path he blazed was an unforgettable one. A notably late-bloomer, Ligety surprised even himself when he struck gold at the 2006 Torino Olympic Games in the alpine combined. He’d go on from there to be one of the most influential figures in the sport of alpine ski racing. Never wanting to pigeon-hole himself into a single discipline, Ligety is proud to have podiumed in all major FIS Ski World Cup events throughout his career, including slalom, giant slalom, alpine combined, super-G and downhill.
“It’s wild. I’ve been racing on the World Cup for 17 years,” Ligety reflected. “I’ve always said I didn’t want to think back on my legacy or my career until I was done and now I’m super excited. I’m super proud of what I was able to do.”
Ligety’s career was so unconventional that his first World Cup victory came after his first Olympic gold medal. Fun fact: His first World Cup victory was at Yongpyong, South Korea on March 5, 2006—the day after he slept through his alarm and missed the first of two World Cups at the venue.
Ligety was a game-changer in the sport, redefining the discipline of giant slalom so much so that the New York Times wrote about him in 2014, “No skier in the world carves turns the way Ted Ligety does. The American has practically invented a new way of skiing.” And it was true; Ligety was winning races by seconds in a sport typically decided by mere hundredths.
His skiing was an art that everyone studied. When the International Ski Federation changed the equipment rules in 2012—including ski sidecut and ski length—Ligety pushed back hard in an article entitled “Tyranny of FIS.” But he didn’t only push back for himself, he pushed back for the sport of alpine ski racing.
Why did he take the stance? “Because it was bad for the future of the sport,” said Ligety, who (as Bill Pennington from the New York Times reported) launched his assault on the new skis through a blog post. “Young kids coming up weren’t going to be able to turn those new straight skis. I didn’t want a whole bunch of 16 year olds to get discouraged and quit racing.” And yet, he prevailed and won the giant slalom title in 2013 for the fourth time in his career.
Ligety made history at the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria, winning three gold medals. In doing so, he became the first since Jean Claude Killy 45 years prior in 1968 to win three or more golds in one World Championships. Killy won four World Championship medals at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble.
“The thing I’m most proud of was probably Schladming when I won three gold medals at the World Championships there. I definitely achieved far more in my career than I would have ever thought as a 16/17-year-old kid when my coaches were telling me I’d be a good college athlete,” Ligety said with a laugh.
Not only was Ligety a mastermind on the mountain, but he was also the mastermind behind Shred, a company he founded with friend Carlo Salmini following the 2006 Olympics. Originally started with goggles, Shred now makes helmets, sunglasses, gloves and outerwear, but more importantly, pushes the style envelope with ski racing. Up next for Ligety will be progressing the business, as well as spending more time with his three sons—Jax (3) and twins Will and Alec (6 months)—and wife, Mia.
“Now, I have two 6-month-old twins and a 3 year old,” Ligety said. “It gives you a nice perspective on life when you have these little guys running around. Having six weeks on the road is not really manageable anymore. I think there’s a time in your life where family is more important than skiing. That time has come.”
The legacy Ligety leaves behind is far greater than young Ted Ligety could have ever imagined. Not only are his longtime teammates Tommy Ford and Ryan Cochran-Siegle now World Cup winners, but the next generation of World Cup victors who looked up to Ligety are also having success on the world stage. Enter the young River Radamus.
In an emotional video tribute to teammate Ted Ligety from the chairlift at Alpe Cimbra, Trentino—the European home base for the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team men—Radamus shared, “I’m feeling a little bit emotional, because this may be one of the last days I get to train with Ted Ligety. It’s no secret I grew up trying to ski like Ted Ligety. You can see it from the way I ski, and everybody’s talked about that a fair bit…but I think he affected the way an entire generation of skiers—particularly Americans—ski. Every kid my age was trying to emulate Ted Ligety when they were growing up. Ted seemed to simultaneously accomplish a level of dominance that seemed impossible, while also making it seem very possible for every American kid to be able to compete on the World Cup.” Ligety was not only a hero on the mountain for Radamus, but in the final two years of his career, Ligety was Radamus’ formal mentor in the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team’s mentoring program.
Ligety will be remembered by his teammates as a fierce competitor dedicated to his craft—one who not only expects excellence from himself, but everyone around him.