PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — A year ago at this time, Ted Ligety was recovering from back surgery. He put an end to his World Cup ski racing season because the pain had become too much, and he made the decision in January 2017 to have surgery to repair herniated disks.
The idea was to get back in shape in time to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and it was the right call. On Tuesday, he’ll start in the Alpine combined at Jeongseon Alpine Centre, and he’ll also race in giant slalom and super-G during these Games.
In January, Ligety discussed his outlook heading into his fourth Olympics, becoming a father, and more in an interview arranged by Rockin’ Protein, which he endorses.
Here are the highlights:
Q. How is fatherhood treating you?
A. “It’s fun. It’s tough when [son Jax] doesn’t sleep that well, but it’s been worth every minute of it.”
Q. How is your recovery going, and how is your skiing?
A. “I’m actually feeling really good. I feel healthy and the back feels totally fine, the knee feels fine, so health-wise I’m in a good spot. And the skiing is getting there. Definitely close to being top speed, so the Olympics are coming around at a good time, I guess.”
Q. How are you balancing professional and family life?
A. “My wife and son are here on the road with me, and that’s been fun. I can’t imagine being on the road for this long — I left home a couple days after Christmas, so if they stayed back it would be a long haul for sure, so it’s been good having them on the road with me. It presents challenges for sure having a son on the road. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s just a matter of time management. Nowadays he’s a little terror, you know, ripping apart hotel rooms and crawling everywhere and climbing up stuff and you’ve got to like watch him now because he falls and all that stuff, so it’s not quite the same as when he was just laying there playing on the floor.”
“It’s so nice to be able to come off the hill and be able to hang out with him and play with him. Before I had a kid I could read or watch a show or whatnot, and nowadays it’s straight from training to hanging out with the kid. Not a lot of free time anymore.”
Q. What does this Olympics mean to you?
A. “It’s really cool to be able to go to my fourth Olympic Games. It’s crazy to think that from being a 21-year-old in my first Olympics in Torino to be able to be doing it now still is a lot of fun. It’s definitely a dream come true and I’m really excited to be able to go to PyeongChang. It’s a place that actually . . . I won my first World Cup race on that hill there [a 2006 giant slalom at Yongpyong Alpine Centre], so the last time I raced there is a good feeling for me even though it’s been 12 years since we’ve been over there. But I’m really looking forward to the Games. It’s pretty crazy that it’s already here.”
Q. How competitive do you think you can be in PyeongChang?
A. “I think I have a good chance. The skiing is feeling good, the body is feeling good. It’s just a matter of putting things together. Giant slalom is my big focus but I also think the super-G hill is more technical, which suits me, and also the combined is an event I think I have a really good chance in if I can throw down an OK speed run.”
Q. How has your training been going?
A. “For ski racing, it’s really important to get in a good recovery after you get off the hill. We’re often doing a couple of sessions [a day], so Rockin’ Protein has really been an important partner of mine where I can get in that protein drink right after I get off the hill.”Matt Pepin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpep15