Having ripped through the 2012-13 FIS World Cup season with six giant slalom victories and his fourth world cup championship, Ted Ligety has transformed into a dominating force in alpine skiing.
Just imagine what could happen in four events at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Ligety might be the world’s best in giant slalom, but he will still be chasing his first giant slalom Olympic gold medal in Sochi.
Beginning Feb. 14, Ligety will compete in four Olympic events over nine days, starting with the men’s super combined event and finishing up Feb. 22 with the slalom. Ligety’s signature event, the giant slalom, will take place Feb. 19 at Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort. Ligety’s fourth event is the super-G Feb. 16.
He ranks No. 4 in the world overall standings this season and is third in giant slalom behind Marcel Hirscher of Austria and Alexis Pinturault of France.
The super combined may be just a warm-up to the giant slalom for Ligety, but it is also the only event in which he has previously won an Olympic gold medal. The super combined was also one of his three wins at the 2013 world championships.
“Winning three gold medals was a dream for me,” Ligety told reporters in Sochi. “It was about as good as I could have skied.”
Ligety was the first skier to win three gold medals at the worlds since Jean-Claude Killy of France accomplished it in 1968, and it was a big reason why Ligety was named the 2012-13 United States Olympic Committee’s Olympic SportsMan of the Year. He was the first alpine male skier to win the award in 39 years.
Ligety’s other wins at the 2013 worlds were giant slalom and super-G. He became the only skier, male or female, to win world championships the same year in giant slalom, super combined and super-G.
“Going into the world championships, I actually knew I had a good chance of medaling in three disciplines, but I didn’t necessarily think I’d win three gold medals,” Ligety, a seven-time U.S. champion, told TeamUSA.org.
The Olympic super combined combines one downhill and one slalom run, with one run for each athlete in each of the two disciplines. The quickest combined times over the runs determine the medalists. Fellow American Julia Mancuso claimed the bronze medal in the women’s super combined Feb. 10.
Ligety, 29, won the gold medal in the super combined at his first Olympic appearance at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games. Since then, he has been kept off the podium, finishing fifth in the combined and ninth in the giant slalom at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
But the turnaround 2013 season and a strong start to the 2013-14 season has Ligety in a tremendous position to possibly hit the podium in Sochi multiple times.
He did not want Torino to be the end of his Olympic success, telling reporters in Sochi: “I didn't just want to be a one-hit wonder.”
In his final world cup appearance before Sochi, Ligety won the giant slalom at the St. Moritz World Cup.
Of the eight world cup events in 2012-13, Ligety won six giant slalom races plus the world championship giant slalom. He medaled in the other two world cup giant slalom races.
Once struggling to find a sponsor when he made the U.S. Ski Team in 2004, Ligety now has his own company, Shred, which makes goggles and helmets for skiers.
He seems to be doing just fine these days.