As Ted Ligety, the top giant slalom racer in the world, packs for the first World Cup race of the season, Oct. 23 in Soelden, Austria, he finds himself in a comfortable place brimming with the confidence one would expect from a World Champion.
“Soelden,” he says, “has always been a good race for me.”
Classic understatement. Ligety’s first race at Soelden was Oct. 23, 2005. He started 64th of 77, moved to a tie for 23rd in the first run and finished eighth in the race, won incidentally by Hermann Maier in a come-from-behind move past Bode Miller.
“Since then,” says Ligety, “I’ve always finished on the podium.”
The hill, a glacier actually high above the village of Soelden, suits Ligety’s disposition. He likes to attack and Soelden lends itself to the charge.
“It’s a nice start off,” he muses. “It’s one of the easier tactical hills and lends itself well to my style. So it’s obviously nice to start there. Previous years results don’t count, but it’s easier to do when you know you’ve gotten results there.”
Moreover, the pre-season has gone very well with camps in New Zealand and Chile plus a few domestic camps. “Both camps were really good,” says Ligety. “I think we had a couple of weather days is all but New Zealand was probably one of the most productive camps we’ve had down there and we got in two pretty good camps at Bachelor and Mammoth that both went well. I definitely have gotten more volume in, I wanted to get some slalom miles under my belt and we accomplished that. It’s been a good off-season.”
So everything is in place for another season of Ted Ligety dominating giant slalom ski racing. It is an old sports doctrine that getting to the top is one thing and staying there quite another. Ligety has the perspective on that. There is, he says, more to come.
“I don’t think anyone has reached the pinnacle of what’s possible,” he says. “The speed of every person gets higher every year. There’s plenty of motivation out there. I’m not getting complacent. If I’m just as good as last year I won’t win a race.”
Ligety is a breed onto himself. His innovative skills are well notated. He gets angles on his skis that others can only aspire to. He continues to look for more and better.
“Junior skiers have a steep incline in their abilities and maybe a little extra physical. When you are among the best you are trying to push the technique further. You try to imagine what the goal is rather than knowing what you are shooting for.”
At Soelden, Oct. 23, Ligety will perhaps unveil the next level of speed.