Olympic champion Ligety slowed by shooting back pain
LA VILLA, Italy (AP) — His back ravaged by a shooting pain that stretches all the way down his leg, Olympic giant slalom champion Ted Ligety can hardly ski at all these days.
No wonder he lost control and slid out several gates into his opening run down the steep and dark Gran Risa course Sunday.
“I’ve been getting injections and trying to get it sorted out but it hasn’t really turned the corner yet,” Ligety said. “I just got to try to figure out how to calm it down. There’s not a direct, easy way of doing that.
“Backs and nerve issues are not like a knee that’s cut and dry and you know what you need to do,” Ligety added. “It’s really dependent person by person and situation by situation.”
Marcel Hirscher of Austria won the race to match Italian great Alberto Tomba for a record fourth GS win on the Gran Risa.
Having already been slowed by back problems at the start of last season, Ligety tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a training accident in Germany in January.
He returned to action in this season’s opening race in Soelden, Austria, in October, finishing fifth. Since then, it’s been a struggle for the Park City, Utah, resident, who has had three herniated disks in his career.
Ligety will sit out a parallel GS on Monday.
“We got to get this physically taken care of so he can get his rhythm and timing back,” U.S. head coach Sasha Rearick said. “For any great champion it’s not technical it’s just the rhythm and timing of the movements. How those things fit together is where you gain your confidence. When you can’t train, your rhythm and timing go off.”
Ligety has won 24 World Cup GS races, second only to Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 46. Four years ago, Ligety won the first run by an almost unheard of 2.40 seconds en route to his second win in Alta Badia.
At this point, Ligety is looking forward to the announced rule change for next season and the return of more modern and more extremely shaped skis, which are easier to turn.
“That’s going to be nice on all of our bodies,” he said. “It’s a welcome change.”
The top American finishers Sunday were Tommy Ford in 13th and Ryan Cochran-Siegle in an impressive 20th with the No. 50 bib — a career-best in GS.
“Tommy is dancing on his skis and has found a lot more speed,” Rearick said. “Ryan had never been here before and he just figured things out.”
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