American skier Ted Ligety ends season for back surgery

GENEVA (AP) Two of skiing's biggest stars will miss next month's world championships because of season-ending surgery.

Ted Ligety of the United States and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway - each with five career world titles - both announced in Instagram posts on Tuesday they will now focus on returning for next season.

Ligety's persistent back problem has denied him a chance to win a fourth straight giant slalom title. He is expected to have surgery imminently.

''Unfortunately surgery (microdiscectomy) means my season is over and a chance to defend my GS title again at World Champs,'' Ligety wrote on his Instagram account early Tuesday.

The 32-year-old American's five world titles include three in giant slalom from 2011, '13 and '15. The next world championships will be Feb. 6-19 in St. Moritz, where Ligety won in February 2014 in the last World Cup race before the Sochi Olympics.

Svindal posted a photo from a hospital bed, four days after he left Switzerland ahead of the classic downhill in Wengen to seek treatment on the right knee he seriously injured a year ago.

''Together with the medical team I took the decision to do another surgery,'' Svindal wrote. ''What they found was a meniscus that was no longer attached to the bone.''

A new setback for the 34-year-old Norwegian follows a fast return to form in his comeback. He took top-three finishes in downhill and super-G races in Val d'Isere, France, and Val Gardena, Italy. The bumpy Italian race is known for being physically demanding.

''Ever since the Val Gardena downhill I've had a strange feeling in my knee,'' Svindal wrote. ''Meniscus not attached means no function, and no function means every landing on a jump and every hit to the knee is painful.''

Confirming he would not ski again this winter, Svindal added: ''Sounds familiar.. But if it can be better next year, it's more than worth it:)''

Svindal won the last of his world titles in 2013, in downhill in Schladming, Austria. He also took a bronze in super-G behind Ligety.

Ligety expects to compete next season and defend his Olympic giant slalom title at the Pyeongchang Games.

''I will be back strong and fast again,'' wrote Ligety, who also won Olympic gold in the combined at the 2006 Turin Games.

Ligety started only five World Cup races this season in his return from tearing right knee ligaments in January 2016. His best finish was fifth in the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, before being slowed by the back problems.

''Since Soelden, I have been dealing with severe nerve pain down my left leg that has not allowed me to ski at the level that I expect of myself,'' he said.

Ligety's last race on Dec. 18 ended quickly when he skied out from a GS in Alta Badia, Italy, where he earned two of his 25 career World Cup wins.

''I've been getting injections and trying to get it sorted out but it hasn't really turned the corner yet,'' Ligety said in Alta Badia. ''Backs and nerve issues are not like a knee that's cut and dry and you know what you need.''

If Ligety, a five-time crystal globe winner as World Cup giant slalom champion, returns to action in Soelden in October, it will be exactly two years since his last victory.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.