Olympics: Ted Ligety arrives in Sochi, confident he can excel
Sochi, Russia •Â Triple world champion ski racer Ted Ligety finally made his first appearance of the Sochi Olympics on Tuesday, taking part in a downhill training run and saying he's rested and ready to pursue a medal haul like the one he enjoyed at the world championships last year.
"I'm feeling like similar to how I did last year," he said. "I don't know if it will equal the same results that would be nice but I'm definitely feeling like I'm well-prepared."
Ligety skipped the opening ceremony last week to take a couple of days off after training in Austria, then traveled to Sochi on Monday night. He's the betting favorite to win the super combined and giant slalom, and he figures to contend in the super G the three events in which he won world titles last year.
But racers are starting to worry about the quality of the courses at Rosa Khutor, with spring-like temperatures ranging in the 40s and 50s and not expected to change in the next few days.
Five-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller said it's a "completely different race course" from when he finished a disappointing eighth in the downhill Sunday because warmer temperatures make for softer snow that's more difficult to negotiate. That could give an advantage in the super combined to slalom skiers like Ligety, rather than downhillers like him.
"It's nicer for us when it's hard and consistent the whole way down," Ligety said, "but it's not something we really have a lot of control over. Hopefully we get some clear nights and it gets cold at night so it stays frozen."
The super combined is the first of four races for Ligety. It takes place Friday. It combines the times of one run of downhill and one run of slalom a slightly different format than when Ligety won gold in his first Olympic race at the 2006 Turin Games in Italy. Back then, the combined included two runs of slalom and one run of downhill. That really tilted the scales to the skiers who specialize in tight turns.
"Nowadays, I'm a much better downhill skier than I was then," he said, "and probably a worse slalom skier than I was then. So I probably evened my skill base out a little bit."
Ligety, who was 15th in the downhill training run Tuesday Miller was fastest also will race the super G on Sunday, his specialty, the giant slalom, Feb. 19 and the slalom Feb. 22. He said he's especially prepared to race because he has spent a lot of time training here; the U.S. Ski Team has enjoyed a partnership with the Russian ski team that has afforded Americans plenty of time on the hill over the past two years.
"It's been nice to definitely get some miles on this hill," Ligety said.
"I don't think really anybody else in the Olympics has skied the giant slalom hill here very much other than myself and a couple of the Russian guys," he added. "So that's definitely a nice little advantage maybe. But more than anything, it takes the anxiety off of a new hill."
Ligety could add to a medal count for the U.S. Ski Team, after teammate and fellow Winter Sports School graduate Julia Mancuso took bronze in the super combined, which followed a lackluster World Cup season.
"That was pretty phenomenal," Ligety said. "You wouldn't guess that she'd be able to medal other than she's Julia, so therefore, she has a chance."
Ted Ligety in Sochi
World champion ski racer Ted Ligety of Park City will race four times at the Sochi Olympics:
Friday • Super-combined
Sunday • Super-G
Feb. 19 • Giant Slalom
Feb. 22 • Slalom