Ted Ligety was an unlikely Olympic champion when he struck gold in 2006. Heading into the Pyeongchang Games, Ligety is an unlikely competitor, having faced back and knee injuries in consecutive years. But the two-time Olympic ski champion says he is healthy and ready to make another medal run. Connect Sports caught up with the U.S. sports legend weeks before the Winter Olympics.
How do you feel headed into the Olympics?
I’m feeling good. I had back surgery last year and knee surgery the year before that. The body is feeling good and I’m happy with how everything is feeling leading into the games. I’m excited it’s all coming together at the right time.
How have those injuries affected preparing for Pyeongchang compared to past Olympics?
Obviously, the years leading up to this year’s Olympics have been different because every single summer has been about surgery or recovery from injury. But right now, I have had a full prep period and this season I am feeling healthy. Now it’s a matter of getting up to speed and getting that race speed going and I feel like I have made those steps and things are feeling good now.
What do you know about the Pyeongchang ski venue?
I really like the venue there. The only time I raced there was in 2006 after the Turino Olympics. My first World Cup win was on that giant slalom hill and they haven’t had a world cup race on it ever since. I’m not only a defending Olympic champion but defending champion on that hill, too. That’s a little confidence booster, I guess. I have good memories from that hill.
How do you enjoy the Olympics when not competing?
When you’re competing at the Olympics, your competition is the top priority. That’s the No. 1 reason you are there. It’s cool to see other events and mingle with some athletes from different sports. For me, when I’m traveling the world on the world cup circuit, I see the same guys every single weekend. At the Olympics, you see a whole new slew of sports and it’s cool to see all the different sports and athletes. It’s an awesome experience.
What’s it like representing the U.S. at the Olympics?
There’s definitely that extra bit of patriotism when you are at the Olympics and representing your country, especially if you have the opportunity to win and you hear your national anthem played when getting your medal. That’s an especially special feeling.
When did you think you’d be an Olympic athlete and win gold?
I wasn’t even close to being one of the best kids on my local ski club. Every single kid has those dreams of being in the Olympics. I also dreamed of being on the Utah Jazz, but that wasn’t necessarily reality. Every kid has those dreams. But it probably wasn’t until I made the U.S. ski team when I was 19 that I thought I would have a chance of going to the Olympics and it wasn’t until I already won that I thought I had a chance of winning. It all happened really quickly.
Having grown up there, what still resonates in Salt Lake after the 2002 Games?
I was really lucky growing up in Park City. I was able to take part a little bit in the Salt Lake City Games. I was a forerunner for the slalom—a guinea pig for slalom events—so I could see some of my heroes at the time up close and personal. The facilities from those games have lasted, so many different athletes from many different sports have blossomed from that area. It’s been cool to see the next generation of kids take advantage of all those resources that came from the games there. If there’s one place that could host the games tomorrow, Salt Lake is probably the place.