After injuries, skier Ted Ligety is finally on the ‘right side of statistics’
PARK CITY, Utah — Ted Ligety is gearing up for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
Last week, the Park City resident and second highest medaling giant slalom skier of all time participated in a round-table event at the 2017 Team USA Media Summit at the Grand Summit Hotel at the Canyons Village. Reporters were eager to discern how ready Ligety was for PyeongChang, given that he has undergone two surgeries in two years, and is a new father to Jax Ligety.
“Health-wise, it’s good,” he said. “I’m pretty positive about where I am right now.”
Ligety had knee surgery for a torn ACL in 2016, then underwent surgery on his back last winter to remove herniated disc material from between his L-3 and L-4 vertebrae, and L-4 and L-5 vertebrae. At first, he tried to avoid surgery, hoping physical therapy would alleviate the pain. Looking back on it, Ligety said he wished he would have gotten the surgery earlier (in November, instead of January), to allow more time to heal before this season. Even so, he was skiing by April and training by March. He said back surgery had the unintended benefit of allowing him to take some time off from skiing and build enthusiasm for the upcoming season.
“I was fresh in March instead of being mentally over it from the end of the season and not wanting to ski as much,” he said. “I was pumped up and ready to get back on snow, so I felt like I had a really good prep period in that sense.”
Now, he said, his back is pain free, though still tingles at times.
“I still have some phantom symptoms, which they say is super common for six months or a year,” he said.
When asked about the looming chance of injury in the sport, and the run he had before his injuries, Ligety was quick to point out his fortune. Up until his ACL tear, he had never sustained a season-ending injury.
“That was the first time I had to step away from the season,” he said. “That was frustrating, but statistically you’re more likely to win a gold medal having blown out your ACL then having a healthy knee, so you know, now I guess I’m on the right side of statistics.”
Ligety said he hopes to be skiing in his prime by the time he departs for PyeongChang, but until then, he will split time between competing and being a new father.
“My favorite thing to do as a dad is just to try and get my son to laugh,” he said. “That’s been really fun. He’s three months old now, so he’s just starting to get little giggles.”
He said Jax can’t quite stand yet – “he’s super unstable and wobbly” – but he is enjoying watching his son grow from an infant to a toddler.
Ligety said he would continue ski racing so long as he is healthy and fast, and said though his life is starting to move in a different direction, he anticipates racing for a few more years.
“I don’t know if I’ll go another four years, but maybe,” he said.
By the 2022 Winter Games, Ligety would be 37, and though his son would be 4, he wouldn’t yet be in school.
“So that’s not out of the realm of possibilities,” he said.
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Strange is a word that will likely define the winter high school sports season. But, after numerous delays and endless doubts, that season is finally here. It will include fewer games, more masks and a lot of empty seats, but adapting to that strangeness is better than the alternative.