There have been a number of racers over the years that when they talk to the press, the press listen: The likes of Bode Miller and Hermann Maier have reached that status. Add Mr GS to that list, Ted Ligety. … Ligety has won respect from his peers for his exploits on the snow. When he talks, the world of ski racing listens. Ligety is the current World Champion in Super Combined, Super G and Giant Slalom. This year he has refound his form in Slalom and in the race at Schladming, he was leading at the first split before suffering the agony of straddling on the first run. In the finish Ligety spoke about his season so far.
Ligety was happy to be back in Schladming, this was where he had won three Gold medals in 2013 at the World Championships. “It is too bad that I straddled as I was starting to get my form back in the right way,” he explained, “tonight I was skiing fast but it is a bummer that I could not make it to the finish line skiing fast.”
While he feels that he is skiing well, the results have not been what he had hoped for. In the 2012 – 13 season, hard snow conditions had seen Ligety post some super impressive times between him and the rest of the field. Soft snow conditions at a number of the European races had seen the likes of Hirscher, Pinturault and Neureuther ahead of him on the podium. A couple of DNF’s (Val d’Isere and Adelboden) and Mr GS is playing catch up in the World Cup for Giant Slalom.
It is not all doom and gloom as Ligety feels that the Combined has been going better but the “Giant slalom has been on the wrong side of luck,” he explained.
When it comes to how he feels his skiing is going heading into the Olympics, Ligety is happy with the way he is skiing and feels that if he skis the way he can, he “will win medals” in Sochi. “I do not want to do anything crazy” leading up to the Olympics Ligety explained. “You want to get your body in the place where you can push yourself, if you are confident in your skiing, which I feel I am right now, then you should ski well.”
When asked how he felt about going to the Olympics, Ligety explained that he is “really excited right now.” Ligety spent extra time after the test events last season training in Sochi to get himself acclimatised to the hill. “I do not know what it is going to be like as the security and all the other issues are daunting to read in the news every day. I have been there a couple of times and we will see how it transforms up to the Games.”
Ligety, like most of the athletes heading to Sochi, wants the racing to be about the racing and not about all the politics that raises its ugly head coming into the Games. Ligety would prefer that the choice of venue would also reflect this: “Every olympics has issues. I think it is too bad that that when they choose the venue for an Olympics that they do not make it political. South Korea was chosen for political reasons. When you have places like Munich, Annecy or Salzburg bidding for the Olympics that have 95% of the infrastructure already built and are 100% safe, that makes sense. You have a huge fan base in these areas and there is no fan base in Russia. There is a limited fan base in South Korea so it is a bummer that we cannot have them in places where it is about the sporting event and not about the political side of the thing.”
The Olympics started out as an event where the competing was more important than the winning. Heading into the 2014 Winter Olympic Games the restrictions on the athletes and their sponsors is getting ever more rigorous. Rule 40 has come into widespread criticism from many athletes as they are now unable to thank the companies that help them get on the way and help make them successful.
“Rule 40 is a joke,” explained Ligety in Schladming after the first run, “It is something that deserves to be in the sixties or seventies, not modern day sport. It is not the reality of modern day sport. When they made the Olympics, Rule 40 made sense. In those days the guys went to college, they got free education, they did not treat their sport as a 365, seven days a week and over multiple years. In ever single sport we work four years in a row and we have one really big opportunity to show case the sponsors that do support us for four years and we are not given the opportunity to show that. I understand that the Olympics should be clean and all that, maybe some stuff should be limited but to have a sponsor, like myself with Putnam, who have supported me for five years and not be able to say anything about that or wear their sticker during the Olympics, is really unfortunate. There is no prize money there and that is our only real way, that is the only way for the sport to survive.”
The World Cup is a sufficient way to make a living but the Olympics needs to modernise Ligety feels. Ligety is not alone with this thought and many athletes were quick to thank all their sponsors before the Rule 40 ban come into effect. It is not that long ago that the Olympics were just for amateurs. Now the athletes are professionals yet the organisation of the Olympic Games seem to have not moved with the times. it will be interesting to see how things change post Sochi and before 2018 happens…
What is for sure is that sport needs the likes of Ligety to talk about the issues that the athletes are facing.