SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — “Mr. GS” is becoming “Mr. GS only” this season.
Finally feeling healthy again after years of hip and back issues, two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety is reducing his workload.
Gone are the days like last season, where he competed in eight giant slaloms, two Alpine combined events, two super-Gs and a slalom.
Set to start in the World Cup season-opener on the Rettenbach glacier on Sunday, Ligety plans to race eight more giant slaloms until March.
And that’s it.
“The last couple of years have definitely been frustrating, health-wise. Hopefully this year I have figured it out,” said Ligety, who turned 35 in August. “The purpose (of summer training) was to get to a place where I can push hard all season and will not be handicapped for half the year.”
Reducing his World Cup schedule allows him to spend more time at home, with wife Mia and their son.
“Jax is almost 2 1/2 now so it’s definitely not as easy to travel with him so he’s staying at home,” Ligety said. “It’s good for my body as far as it comes to the reduced workload and also good to be able to be home between races. Outside of December, we race every three weeks so for me that’s great.”
Besides the World Cup, Ligety plans two or three appearances on the U.S.-based World Pro Ski Tour, which was revived in 2017 after its heyday in the 1990s.
“What they are doing is really cool,” Ligety said. “They are trying to bring the excitement back to ski racing, especially in the United States. It’s nice to have alternatives for ski racing outside just FIS World Cup. You can have some new ideas and cool ways to promote the sport.”
The new season will bring a new balance for Ligety.
He entered the World Cup at a giant slalom in Park City, Utah, as a technical specialist 16 years ago, but was already adding speed races to his schedule two years later.
His qualities as a multi-event skier earned him Olympic gold in combined in Turin in 2006 and three world titles — in super-G, combined and GS — at the championships in Schladming seven years later.
By then, Ligety was already known as “Mr. GS” after establishing his name as the circuit’s dominating giant slalom skier. Highlighted by his Olympic title in 2014, he amassed 24 World Cup wins and five season titles in the discipline.
The tide turned in the 2015-16 season. Ligety won the first race in October but the American soon dealt with back and hip ailments. Tearing the ACL in his right knee in January cut his season short.
Ligety also quit the next season in January to have back surgery.
Since his return in December 2017, Ligety competed in 15 giant slaloms, but managed just five top-10 finishes, including a third place.
The discipline had long got a new force — eight-time overall champion Marcel Hirscher, who won the GS season title six times but has now retired.
“He leaves a big hole in the World Cup, that’s for sure,” Ligety said about the Austrian. “It will be interesting to see who can fill that hole. What he has been able to do is tremendous, how strong he has been through all those years.”
Skiing on a hill where he has won a record four times, Ligety will try to find his way back to the top of GS skiing on Sunday.
Contrary to Hirscher, and despite his setbacks in recent years, Ligety has not been considering retirement.
That moment, he said, will only come “when I feel like I can’t strive for podiums and don’t feel healthy.”
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