Aside from arching turns like no one else has, Ted Ligety’s vast experience, wealth of knowledge and willingness to mentor younger teammates cannot be overstated, according to U.S. Ski Team men’s technical coach Forest Carey.
“It’s invaluable, you can’t measure it – just the respect that he has from the guys is enormous,” Carey tells Ski Racing Media about Ligety.
Ligety, 36, officially announced his retirement from World Cup racing on Tuesday. It will be the culmination of a decorated 17-year U.S. Ski Team career highlighted by two Olympic gold medals, five world titles and five giant slalom globes. His 24 World Cup GS victories rank him third behind Ingemar Stenmark (46) and Marcel Hirscher (32).
The four-time Olympian will bring a brilliant career to a close with one final giant slalom race at the Cortina 2021 Alpine Ski World Championships on Feb. 19. It will be an emotional farewell to the international ski racing family.
Carey elaborated upon the immense impact that Ligety’s presence within the team has meant as the Park City, Utah native prepares to race in his eighth and final world championship.
“He’s an unbelievable teammate and resource for the guys, and they’ll listen to anything that he says,” Carey said. “He’s a smart dude and very analytical with his equipment, kind of a like an engineer’s type of mind.
“He just has that knowledge that is so hard come by, unless you’ve been there.
“He’s paying attention and wants guys to succeed. It’s always been important for him to be part of the team and I respect that a lot in an individual sport like this.”
River Radamus – who will compete alongside Ligety in his final GS in Cortina – admitted that he shed a tear about his teammate’s retirement, expressing his emotions in an Instagram post.
“Ted, being your teammate has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I’ve learned so much from you and I’m more grateful for the time I’ve spent around you than I’ll ever be able to fully articulate to you in person…Let’s go send it off with one more good one,” Radamus wrote.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle — who nabbed his first World Cup victory in a Bormio, Italy, super-G on Dec 29, but will miss worlds due to a neck injury suffered from a crash in Kitzbuehel last month — was a surprise guest on Ligety’s well-attended and emotional virtual press conference on Wednesday.
“You’re such a huge leader of our team, not just the tech guys, but the entire team,” Cochran-Seigle told Ligety. “The wisdom that you expelled on all of us, we are definitely better skiers because of it and we wouldn’t be where we are without you.”
Ligety expanded upon his camaraderie with his younger teammates Tommy Ford, Cochran-Siegle and Radamus, noting that pushing one another on training hills has been a mutually beneficial experience.
“Tommy and Ryan are two guys that I’ve skied with probably the most over the last past ten years and to see both of those guys coming into their own, as stars on the World Cup, is something that I’ve been super proud to watch,” Ligety said.
“They were challenging and pushing me during some of the best years of my career and it’s been fun to see them go through the ebbs and flows and now to win World Cups is pretty amazing.”
Ligety also commended Radamus, who will turn 23 on Friday. The Edwards, Colorado ski racer is a three-time Youth Olympic Games champion and attained a career best 18th in GS at Adelboden last month.
“River is a young guy that I’ve been with for the last few years and has a ton of potential and is starting to break through,” Ligety said.
“River is chipping away this season with consistent results,” Carey adds. “As he says, he has to trust the process.”
While Cochran-Siegle is sidelined from the Kitzbuehel incident, Ford will miss the world championships as a result of a knee injury suffered from a crash in Adelboden last month.
“I am really bummed that Tommy and Ryan are injured right now because what they’ve done has meant a lot to me,” Ligety said.
“I’m just proud to be just a small part of pushing them forward – I’ve always enjoyed being a part of and training with the team atmosphere.
“I couldn’t picture myself going out there beating my head against the wall by myself training – it doesn’t sound like fun and I wouldn’t be where I am today if that’s what I had to do.”
Considering Ligety’s strong influence and varied contributions, even with his farewell, Carey expresses positivity about the direction the men’s tech team is headed.
“It’s been a vibe and energy within the team and it starts with Ted – I can’t say enough about what Ted has meant to the next generation.”
Ligety summed up what Carey has meant to him and the team, as his longest tenured coach.
“The year before I made the ski team, Forest was trying to make a comeback and I remember racing Nor-Ams with him,” Ligety . “He is so freaking competitive – nobody fouls me harder in a basketball game than Forest.
“It’s having that personality on the road with you – he doesn’t want any of the attention or credit. He wants to make skiing fun, but also strives for the best results for all of his athletes.
“He works doggedly hard for all of us and puts himself out there for his athletes, which is really special.”
Pretty in pink in Kitzbuehel
Mr. GS has raced the treacherous Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel on six occasions, standing out considerably the first time while sporting a pink neon ‘Shred Optics’ helmet.
Teammate Bode Miller mocked him for his preferred color at the top of the revered Streif, to which Ligety responded that wearing it was quite emasculating.
“’Shred’ was initially known for having wild and crazy colors – my first time down Kitzbuehel, I thought I should wear neon pink because it would be appropriate for skiing the gnarliest, manliest, toughest hill on the World Cup,” Ligety joked.
“If you have the confidence to wear a pink neon helmet in Kitzbuehel, then you better have the confidence to charge it.”
Ligety survived his first trip down the Streif, finishing 43rd while bringing widespread exposure to his goggles, helmets and ski gear business.
Alpine Rockfest two-time champion
Lost in his numerous accomplishments, Ligety is the only two-time Alpine Rockfest champion, winning in 2011 and 2013. The Rockfest was a fun-filled, creative sprint GS race contested in Andalo, Italy, with a fast-paced elimination format and Italian reggae bands jamming in the finish.
“It was a lot of fun – the event format was really cool,” Ligety recalls. “What was amazing about the Rockfest format was that you had a bunch of runs, a knock-out formula, a cool jump and it was a party atmosphere.
“There was big prize money, so there was still a lot of pressure to win – it was fun to race in a different scenario than World Cup against the top guys in,” he said. “Having 100,000 dollars out there to win was a big incentive to put a lot on the line and having alternatives to FIS ski racing is overall good for our sport.”
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