Wrist on mend, Ligety will compete at Beaver Creek
Ted Ligety was looking to add more hardware to his collection this season. Just not this kind of hardware.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist had four metal screws inserted into his left wrist as a result of a skiing mishap in a training session on Nov 22.
Now, he's showing his mettle by racing in the World Cup downhill, super-G and giant slalom races this weekend in Beaver Creek, Colorado. That's the current plan, anyway, despite a wrist that's still so tender he can barely push out of the start gate.
''That's my job, to be out there skiing, no matter what,'' said the 30-year-old from Park City, Utah, who finished 3.73 seconds behind the top time of Norway's Kjetil Jansrud in a downhill training session Tuesday. ''I wouldn't miss this for the world.
''If I can do this relatively safe, then I'm going to be out there to push it.''
Ligety has had his fair share of broken wrists throughout his career. But this one topped the list as far as pain. He was practicing in Vail, Colorado, when he essentially hooked his hand on a gate, breaking bones in his wrist and tearing ligaments.
It was straight to surgery.
''Just easier and faster to pin it all together, recovery-wise,'' he said.
Following the procedure, Ligety took two days off and then returned to the hill. He trained without a ski pole - he couldn't hold one with his left hand - and said that has actually improved his balance.
Ligety skipped the races in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend, to give the wrist more time to mend and to squeeze in some extra sessions in the giant slalom, the event he won at the Sochi Olympics.
''Every day my wrist feels better and better,'' said Ligety, who also captured gold in the combined at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
The plan is to leave the screws in for the season and then remove them.
Ligety's not the only big name on the men's team banged up. Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller had back surgery last month and will be sidelined until at least January.
''That's just the nature of skiing. It's hard to stay fully healthy,'' Ligety said. ''It will be good to have Bode back healthy and pushing it, since his back has been bothering him for a while.''
Ligety said his injury could've been much worse. But he was wearing a pair of gloves he helped design, along with U.S. Ski Team physician Dr. Randy Viola. They fortified racing gloves in vulnerable spots, using a material designed to harden upon impact.
''Saved me from getting completely smashed up,'' said Ligety.
As for possibly doing even more damage to the wrist by competing, Ligety said that's not a concern.
''Once you get four screws put in there, it's pretty locked down,'' Ligety said. ''We're not concerned about any further damage, other than smashing it on a gate, which would hurt it anyway. Once you have screws in there, it's just waiting until the swelling comes down and the strength to come back. I've kind of had the pain go away a little bit.''
Beaver Creek is one venue that Ligety doesn't want to skip, especially since he's always been so good on this hill. He's won four giant slalom races on the challenging Birds of Prey course.
Not only that, but it's an opportunity to forget about the season-opening GS race in Soelden, Austria, in October. He was the favorite, but struggled on the bumpy course and finished 10th. His biggest rival, Marcel Hirscher of Austria, won the event.
''I think Soelden was going OK - I wasn't going to win - but could've easily gotten second if I didn't hit a huge rock and lose all my speed and my edge going onto the flats,'' Ligety said.
For years, Ligety's been on a different level than everyone else in the discipline, with some of his competitors even referring to him as ''Mr. GS.'' He's won five World Cup GS titles and, of course, that Olympic gold in Sochi.
This season, he's changed his training just to try to stay ahead of his competition. He's working with a nutritionist and has cut way back on sugar, including ice cream - his weakness.
''I'm just continually building on ways that I feel are the best for getting me faster,'' Ligety said. ''I'm 30 years old now. I'm not super young and a little kid anymore.''