Jan. 31 (UPI) — American alpine skier Ted Ligety is heading to the Winter Olympics, but first he wants to honor his coach, Forest Carey.
Ligety spoke to UPI this week about preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, his comeback from several injuries and the relationship he has with his revered instructor.
The 33-year-old is set to compete in his fourth Winter Olympics. He wrapped up the World Cup season last week, taking third place in the giant slalom. He travels to Pyeongchang on Feb. 4. Ligety is working with Folgers as part of the “Here’s to Coaches” campaign.
The two-time gold medalist met Carey when they competed against each other and have become stronger friends in the last nine years with Carey serving as a direct coach.
“For me it’s a really big journey, getting to the games and what it takes to get here is a lot of different people along the way, but the coaches play an especially huge role in getting us to where we want to be,” Ligety said. “Outside of the Games, we are traveling with our coaches for six months out of the year, pretty much straight not going home at all and we form a really close bond with them. It’s great for us to partner with Folgers to raise awareness for the Here’s to Coaches campaign.”
Ligety is familiar with the setting for the Games and looks forward to competing against the world’s best.
“I’m really excited about the games in Pyeongchang. My first world cup win was actually on the giant hill there Yongpyong so I have really good memories of that hill and that was actually the last time we raced on that hill, which was 12 years ago. So I’m defending champion on that hill, which is a pretty crazy thing. So it’s a nice little confidence boost.”
The U.S. team is currently training in Austria for the Games. Ligety is trying to complete a major comeback after blowing out his knee two years ago. He has also had back issues over the years and had surgery in 2016, but is “feeling great.”
He said his summer training schedule includes five or six days per week at the gym. Ligety does mountain biking or other aerobic activities in the afternoons. In the winter, he trains for about five days each week, getting on the lifts at about 8 a.m. He said the American skiers are in Europe training and competing from October until March, not leaving much time to come hone.
“For me I do multiple disciplines, so I really don’t have more than five days without a race,” Ligety said. “So there isn’t really any time to have a home base. I am always trying to chase wherever the best snow conditions are for the best training. Generally, it’s packing my bags and getting in the car to the next hotel room.”
And when it comes to fueling the world’s top athletes, you might be surprised with how they prepare for peak performance.
“We are often at the mercy of the hotel we are staying at food,” Ligety said. “That can vary, so it’s pretty tough to regulate the full on strict nutrition. But we try to maintain high protein, high vegetable, then same thing with dinner with the hotel. So we are generally at the mercy of the hotel for dinner as well. So we are eating as healthy as we can and complementing with protein shakes and stuff like that. So generally we are having hotel food.”
While the menu might not be optimal, the landscape is pristine.
Ligety says the conditions in South Korea should be perfect for skiing. That includes temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, with hard ice to race on.
While one of Team USA’s top skiers Steven Nyman will miss the games because of a torn ACL, but Ligety still has confidence in his teammates.
Ligety was the youngest American male to win an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing, when he did so at just 21-years-old. He is a five-time World Cup giant slalom champion.
The first training event in the men’s downhill for alpine skiing begins at 11 p.m. on Feb. 8 in Pyeongchang. That means it will air at 11 p.m. on Feb. 7 on NBC and can be streamed at NBCOlympics.com and on the NBC Sports App.