The miles have racked up, sure, but no matter: Ted Ligety is guaranteed a fourth Olympics appearance.
The 33-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist alpine skier solidified a spot at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in the giant slalom Saturday. Ligety won gold in the GS at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, eight years after winning gold in the combined at the 2006 Games in Torino.
The Park City-raised racer remains one of the most-decorated alpine skiers in history, with six World Championships medals (five golds), 24 individual GS World Cup wins, plus five World Cup GS crowns.
It’s been a series of major injuries Ligety’s had to endure since leaving Sochi with gold.
He suffered a torn ACL in a training run in Germany in January 2016. That was just two months after getting over three herniated discs in his back and a torn muscle in his hip. The reigning gold medal GS champion had to call it quits on last year’s World Cup campaign to address severe nerve pain in his back and legs and undergo back surgery.
The injury kept Ligety from charging for a fourth straight World Championship GS title, something no ski racer has ever done.
This World Cup season ahead of the 2018 Games hasn’t exactly been an easy one, either.
Ligety qualified to represent Team USA in the GS through a fifth-place finish in Italy and a seventh-place finish at Beaver Creek, Colo., in December.
Competing for a third gold medal in South Korea will be Ligety’s first race on those hills in 12 years. That only previous appearance in Pyeongchang to date in 2006? Ligety’s first-ever World Cup victory. Many more followed.
Joining the U.S. Olympic team in Pyeongchang is another Park City local.
Alpine skier Megan McJames qualified for her third Olympic appearance. The 30-year-old will race in the women’s GS alongside megastar Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin. McJames qualified through Shiffrin’s dominating World Cup, having won six of seven World Cup races.
Shiffrin hit the qualification markers last month based on her season results, so once it was guaranteed no other U.S. racer could pass her, the next qualifying spot came to the only other American racer with World Cup points in the GS.
The Park City skier, who won the GS at last year’s U.S. Alpine Championships, was cut from the U.S. national team in 2012 but since has competed on the World Cup tours and in the Olympic Games on her own dime and fundraising. McJames finished 30th in the GS in Sochi in 2014 and 32nd in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.