Ted Ligety and Tommy Ford both have reason to dislike the month of January. Both skiers have suffered major injuries in different Januarys that threatened to derail their careers.
But now maybe they’ll always remember January 2018 as the month they made their returns to the Olympic Winter Games.
On Saturday, Ligety and Ford officially qualified for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team in giant slalom.
Ligety, 33, a three-time Olympian and two-time gold medalist from Park City, Utah, qualified through a fifth-place finish at the world cup in Alta Badia, Italy on Dec. 17 as well as a seventh-place finish in the world cup at Beaver Creek, Colorado on Dec. 3.
Ligety is on the comeback trail following surgeries in the last two seasons. After winning the season-opening giant slalom at Soelden, Austria in 2015-16, he suffered a torn ACL during giant slalom training in Oberjoch, Germany in January 2016.
He came back last season before shutting down in January to have back surgery, a microdiscectomy procedure to address nerve pain down his left leg that hindered his skiing ability.
Ligety won gold in combined at the Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006, at 21 the youngest American man to win an alpine gold medal, and won his second gold in giant slalom in Sochi in 2014. He is a three-time giant slalom world champion (2011, 2013 and 2015) with 24 giant slalom world cup wins plus five world cup titles. He won three gold medals at the 2013 world championships, the first skier to do that since Jean-Claude Killy in 1968.
Ford, a 28-year-old from Bend, Oregon, qualified via a 10th-place finish in giant slalom at the world cup in Beaver Creek, his best career finish in a world cup.
A 2010 Olympian, Ford has won eight national titles and competed at two world championships for giant slalom. He’s been on the comeback trail since fracturing his right femur in January 2013, an injury that kept him out of competition for nearly two years.
The criteria for Olympic qualification includes world cup results for a top-three finish, followed by top-five finish or top-10 finish. Up to three athletes can qualify that way.