Oct 23, 2013, 4:51 PM EST
NEW YORK — The line outside the Times Square Planet Hollywood slithered down one block and around the corner. So did the barricades.
The first few people stationed in front, with chairs and blankets, said they waited there overnight, from 3 p.m. the day before. They knew the first 300 would receive precious wristbands, the key to a guaranteed autograph.
The Olympic champion arrived, stepped out of the car and looked.
Who are they here for, he asked.
And Ted Ligety walked, unbothered, under the red canopy and through the doors for lunch at Bond 45 across the street.
It’s not surprising for a U.S. Olympian, especially a Winter Olympian, to pass unnoticed through the tourist foot traffic capital of America. Yet the entrepreneurial Ligety owns star credentials in a showcase Olympic sport that deserve the crowd-gazing attention of Shaun White or Lindsey Vonn (but not quite that of a twerking pop singer).
He doesn’t crave it, but he is already tasting fame, with plenty more on the horizon.
Ligety placed his Putnam Investments cap on the white-clothed table. He ordered a tuna burger (rare). He discussed why sponsors and PR chose him for a media tour of New York more than 100 days before the Olympics.
“It’s much bigger this year for sure,” he said, citing sponsorships with Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, Citi and Proctor & Gamble and two commercials he shot during a ski trip to New Zealand, one for Vicks. “What I did at World Championships, there’s been a lot more attention on me, I guess, this time around.
“I’ve had definitely to turn down a lot of things to really prepare on what my real job is.”
Ligety could win more medals than any other American at the Sochi Olympics. In fact, he’s predicted to.
That’s big considering the company of multiple medal threats at past Games (Marion Jones in 2000, Apolo Ohno in 2002, 2006 and 2010, Michael Phelps in 2004, 2008 and 2012, Bode Miller in 2006 and Vonn in 2010).
Ligety, 29, is set to begin the most scrutinized season of a career that began in 2004, when he was 19 (and one year younger than Cyrus today). The Alpine skiing World Cup campaign starts in Soelden, Austria, on Sunday.
Vonn and Miller have made headlines for recoveries from knee injuries, but Ligety will likely be the story in race recaps posted before the NFL pregame shows.
He’s won the season opener at this ski town along the Italian border the last two years, including by a whopping 2.75-second margin in 2012.
Even more incredible than last year’s season-opening rout was his performance at the World Championships four months later, 200 miles to the east. The blond-haired Utahn who would like to jump out of a plane, ride in a fighter jet and drive a Formula 1 car before he dies did something no skier had done in 45 years.
Ligety won three gold medals at the five-race championships in Schladming, Austria, in February. The last man to do that was French legend Jean-Claude Killy in 1968, before the sport’s leap into modern equipment, technique and specialization of elite skiers focusing on one or two events.
Ligety already won Olympic gold in the combined in 2006 and three World Cup season titles in the giant slalom, Alpine’s crucible event. Before his Schladming showcase, the narrative for his third Olympic appearance was already set — redemption.
Ligety wasn’t on it.
He just wasn’t quick enough in Whistler, British Columbia, where his best finish in four tries was fifth in the super combined (the combined, an event with downhill run and two slalom runs, was replaced by the super combined, an event with one downhill run and one slalom run, for 2010).
“I left speed up on the hill, which was really frustrating,” Ligety said, summing up 2010, especially the giant slalom, where he was ninth. “Since then, I think I’ve been able to ski in a way where I’m happy every time I get down to the finish line with my level of intensity how I skied.
“I think back then I skied a lot of races where I was just trying to be tactically smart and not put myself into too much risk.”
Now, with that triple-gold Worlds performance, the story changes. Redemption is replaced by hype.
“I guess the (Olympic) expectations have changed a little bit based on how I did at Worlds,” Ligety said. “I knew I had very good chances at three medals, but three gold medals definitely exceeded my expectations.
“I don’t think I have those same expectations (at the Olympics). I’d love to repeat that performance, but that’s an extremely difficult performance to repeat. I realize that, and I can recognize that. I’m not setting my goal as far as repeating that. I just want to go in there and repeat my ability to ski at that level, and I want to repeat my ability to have my mental sharpness at that level. That should equal medals, but it doesn’t necessarily have to equal three gold medals in order for me to be happy.”
Ligety said giant slalom gold is the Olympic medal he would like to win above all else (he plans to ski everything but downhill). Some Olympians will say they’d be happy with one medal, and the rest is icing.
Ligety craves more.
“I think I have a really good chance in the super-G and combined,” said Ligety, who has won 17 career World Cup races, all giant slaloms. “So I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket with giant slalom, that’s for sure. I’m preparing throughout the season. I’m going to race all the (World Cup) super-Gs, all the super combineds, all the slaloms.”
There’s another reason for the busy schedule that has nothing to do with the Olympics. Ligety knows he has a hole in his résumé that no mountain of Sochi success can fill.
He’s never won the overall World Cup season title. Ligety finished third behind giant slalom rival Marcel Hirscher of Austria and super-G rival Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway this past year.
He would rather win that title in March — and the oversized crystal globe prize — than an Olympic gold medal in February.
“Because it’s a compilation of a season’s work,” Ligety said. “It’s really the mark of a true ski champion. Winning an Olympic gold medal is awesome. It shows you can really get yourself on the top level that day and push yourself. There’s a lot different things that can go into that, maybe the best guy doesn’t always win. The overall title, the best guy always wins that.”
Dec 8, 2013, 3:39 PM EST
Ted Ligety dominated as usual. Bode Miller looked like the Miller of old. The Americans went one-two in a World Cup giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday. It marked the first time the U.S. put two men on a World Cup podium since Jan. 17, 2009. The world champion Ligety won in a two-run time of 2…
Dec 8, 2013, 1:52 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn improved for the second straight day in her first races in 10 months. The Olympic downhill champion placed fifth in a World Cup super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Sunday. Vonn skied the course in 1 minute, 23.71 seconds. Winner Lara Gut of Switzerland was .85 of a second faster. Vonn, in her first races since blowing…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:51 PM EST
American Heather Richardson and her fiance both won races on the final day of the World Cup speed skating stop in Berlin on Sunday. Richardson, the world sprint champion, won the 1000m in 1 minute, 14.51 seconds, .91 better than U.S. teammate Brittany Bowe. Russian Olga Fatkulina was third. Berlin marked the final World Cup before the Olympics, meaning it’s…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:15 PM EST
Erin Hamlin finished fifth in a World Cup luge race to secure her third Olympic berth on Saturday night. Hamlin, 27, of Remsen, N.Y., is the second USA Luger to clinch a spot in Sochi, joining now two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer. Hamlin is now a three-time Olympian. The 2009 world champion finished 12th in Torino and 16th…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:08 PM EST
The 2014 U.S. Olympic Team is expected to be its largest in Winter Games history with more than 200 athletes. This list of athletes nominated to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team will be updated as national governing bodies announce their teams: Biathlon Lowell Bailey — @lowellcbailey Tim Burke — @tb_burke Susan Dunklee — @susandunklee Curling Erika…
Dec 8, 2013, 8:57 AM EST
One of Jesse Owens‘ four 1936 Berlin Olympics gold medals sold for the highest price ever for a piece of Olympic memorabilia on Sunday morning. The medal sold for $1,466,574, according to its listing on SCP Auctions. There were 30 bids in the auction that began Nov. 20. The bidding price was at $370,000 with about…
Dec 7, 2013, 4:28 PM EST
Steve Holcomb is four for four this season. The Olympic champion drove a four-man bobsled to victory in his hometown of Park City, Utah, on Saturday. Holcomb, with Curt Tomasevicz, Steve Langton and Chris Fogt, won with a two-run time of 1 minute, 34.76 seconds. Germany’s Max Arndt was second, .35 of a second back. Russian Aleksander Kasyanov was third. Holcomb, Arndt and…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:58 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn made major strides in less than 24 hours between her first two races since major knee surgery. The Olympic downhill champion finished 11th in a downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Saturday afternoon. On Friday, Vonn was 40th in another Lake Louise downhill, her first race since blowing out her right knee at the…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:38 PM EST
If Ted Ligety is going to be a multiple-medal threat in Sochi, he must produce strong results outside the giant slalom. He took a step in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Saturday, with his third top-five super-G finish over the last four World Cup seasons. Ligety navigated the Birds of Prey course in 1 minute, 22.21 seconds,…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
U.S. Bobsled has been stellar to start the season, but it’s never been stronger than Saturday. The U.S. swept the medals in Park City, Utah. Elana Meyers and Aja Evans won in a two-run time of 1 minute, 38.61 seconds, followed by Jamie Greubel and Lolo Jones and Jazmine Fenlator and Lauryn Williams, who tied for silver in 1:39.24. It’s the first time since Feb.…
Dec 7, 2013, 1:01 PM EST
Aleksander Kaptarenko trained for the Olympic torch relay by carrying a frozen salmon. Kaptarenko, a 101-year-old table tennis player, became the oldest Olympic relay torchbearer on Saturday, according to R-Sport. He was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1912 and carried an Olympic torch in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk for 200 meters. Kaptarenko has…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:36 PM EST
India’s Olympic Association may no longer be recognized by the International Olympic Committee if it fails to comply with ”rules of good governance” by Tuesday, IOC president Thomas Bach told The Associated Press. India, currently under an IOC suspension, has “corruption-tainted officials” in its Olympic Association’s ranks, the AP reported. “It’s about the principles,” Bach told the AP.…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:36 PM EST
Two-time U.S. snowboardcross Olympian Nate Holland is in jeopardy of missing the Sochi Games after breaking a collarbone in training, the International Ski Federation (FIS) told NBCOlympics.com. Holland, 35, suffered the injury before the first World Cup snowboardcross event in Montafon, Austria, this weekend. Holland was considered a Sochi medal contender. He was 14th at the 2006…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
Olympic and world champion Yuna Kim fell on her opening jump but still posted a total score beaten by only one other skater during the Grand Prix season at a minor event in Zagreb, Croatia, on Saturday. The South Korean won the Golden Spin with 204.49 points, her first competition this season following a foot injury. Japan’s Mao…
Dec 7, 2013, 10:40 AM EST
U.S. speed skaters bagged two more medals on the penultimate day of the final World Cup before the Sochi Olympics on Saturday. Shani Davis and Heather Richardson won bronze in the 1000m and 500m, respectively. The Berlin World Cup concludes with a men’s 500m and 5000m and a women’s 1000m and team pursuit Sunday. It’s the final opportunity…
Dec 7, 2013, 9:45 AM EST
USA Luge put a men’s singles slider on a World Cup podium for the first time in nearly seven years on Friday night. 2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer placed a career-best second in Whistler, B.C., the fourth of nine World Cup stops before the Sochi Olympics in February. Mazdzer was fourth after the first of two runs, behind…
Dec 7, 2013, 6:55 AM EST
Skating in a Grand Prix at home perhaps for the last time, Mao Asada claimed gold Saturday at the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan, the 23-year-old rising above an error-prone finish in the ladies’ free skate. Fifteen-year-old Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya skated cleanly to jump her way from fourth to second, claiming the silver medal.…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:12 AM EST
A world record to overcome and the Grand Prix Final gold medal on the line, American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White rose to the occasion Saturday in Fukuoka, Japan. Skating after rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had delivered a brilliant free dance to give them a highest-ever overall score, 190.00, Davis/White were…
Dec 6, 2013, 9:06 PM EST
The U.S. Bobsled Team continued its golden start to the season, sweeping the two-woman and two-man World Cup races in Park City, Utah, on Friday. Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers and Olympic champion Steve Holcomb drove USA-1 sleds to victory at the 2002 Olympic track. Meyers, 29, notched her first career World Cup victory as a driver in her…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:18 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn safely made it down the mountain in her first competition in 10 months, finishing 40th out of 61 skiers at a World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday. The Olympic downhill champion completed the course in 1 minute, 59.22 seconds. German Maria Hoefl-Riesch won in 1:56.03 (results at bottom). “I was just too nervous,”…
- Ted Ligety, Bode Miller go 1-2 in Beaver Creek giant slalom (video) 1
- Lindsey Vonn says she’s ready for Sochi after best comeback result (video) 1
- Jesse Owens’ gold medal goes for $1.4 million in auction 1
- Lindsey Vonn stronger in second comeback race (video) 3
- U.S. sweeps women’s bobsled in Park City (video) 3
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- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (45)
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