Bode Miller and Ted Ligety are perhaps two of the most innovative Alpine skiers that the United States has ever sent to the Olympics.
Since his debut on the World Cup circuit, Miller has carved a place in history as one of the most aggressive ski racers ever. Since day one, he has been the guy cutting turns a little tighter and holding top-speed a little longer than rivals. That willingness to ride the edge between danger and disaster has enabled him to do things on the slope unlike any other before him or since.
“I’ve always tried to live my life in a way that I won’t regret later,” Miller said. “It’s one of my favorite qualities about myself, that I didn’t choose — kind of been that way since I was young. I do everything as hard as I can and I don’t leave a lot out there.”
But that unconventional style can often be maddening for fans and media as his risks have reaped as many spectacular rewards as failures. Many have wondered how many more victories and medals he could have on his resume had he been more fixated on results as opposed to the ethereal quality of his performances. Not that he hasn’t been successful. His five Olympic medals and 33 World Cup victories make him the winningest American male ski racer in history.
Hoping to close the gap on his childhood idol is Ligety, who, too, approaches skiing in an unconventional manner. He has earned the reputation for being perhaps the most technically-proficient skiers of all time through a seeming obsession with mastering ski technology, and the science of angles and turn radius. He has made it his mission to get more out of his equipment than his competitors, and has come up with a unique style for carving gates. His rounder approach forces him to begin the next turn while finishing the one before, an approach that has garnered him the nickname “Shred.”
Like Miller, Ligety’s strengths have produced results. He has won 21 times on the World Cup circuit, 20 of those in the giant slalom, the third most in the history of the discipline. He has also won four World Cup giant slalom globes and in 2013 he won gold in the giant slalom, slalom and super-combined at the World Championships, becoming the first man since Jean-Claude Killy of France in 196 to win three titles.
“Ted’s focused on what he needs to do to not lose,” U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick said. “He’s amazing that way. “He’s so professional in everything he does, in terms of getting up in the morning, warming up, making sure his service guys have the perfect setup, training his butt off, coming off the hill and talking to the service guys — ‘OK, this is what we have to adjust’ — getting in on the bike to recover, eating the right foods. He does all those things in such a professional way.”
While similarly groundbreaking on skis, the pair present themselves as polar opposites off the slope. Miller is often seen as the brash one, always outspoken and blunt with the media, while Ligety is more soft-spoken and out of the public eye. But they are always complimentary of each other in the press.
Ligety, who finished 15th and 11th in the last two downhill training runs, said of his preparation that it was, “encouraging to have improvement.” He added that his teammate’s medal prospects, on paper, would seem better than Julia Mancuso’s were before her bronze-winning effort.
“Bode has a chance always,” Ligety told AP. “His slalom can be really good sometimes. … If he has a really good downhill run he’s in a good position because he won’t feel like he has to take any risk. Bode is historically a far better slalom skier than Julia was. And he still has a lot of speed in it and he still actually trains it a fair amount. It’s all a matter of consistency for him.”
Miller agreed with Ligety’s assessment.
“I don’t have the same time into slalom this year as the slalom guys,” he said. “That’s the real disadvantage. Those guys they train a ton of slalom, they know their set-ups they are able to come straight onto a pretty-aggressive, gnarly hill with marginal conditions and ski 100 percent. I don’t know that I am confident enough to do that, but I am going to pretty much have to, I think.”
These two stars of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, one a speed demon, the other a technical wizard, both so different and yet so similar, will collide in the men’s super-combined on Friday. The downhill run begins at 1 am ET with the slalom run following at 6:30 am ET. Here is a closer look at the American gold-medal hopefuls:
|Bode Miller||Name||Ted Ligety|
|Easton, N.H.||Birthplace||Salt Lake City, UT|
|6′ 2”||Height||5′ 11”|
|196 lbs.||Weight||190 lbs.|
|Gold, 2010 Vancouver
|Best Olympic finish
||Gold, 2006 Torino
|5||Olympic medal won
|1997||World Cup debut season||2003|
|3||2013-14 World Cup podiums||6|
|0||2013-14 World Cup victories||4|
|78||Career World Cup podiums||26|
|33||Career World Cup victories||21|
|13||Career World Cup Combined/Super-combined Podiums||2|
|6||Career World Cup Combined/Super-combined Victories||1|
|2||World Cup overall titles||0|
|4||World Championships won||4|
|“There’s no questioning Ted’s ability or his brain. He’s smart and he’s unique in that he takes responsibility for his situation. That’s what has allowed him to be successful. He has no one to blame for his success except himself.”||Key quotes
||“Bode was one of my heroes growing up. It’s kind of fun to be on the U.S. Ski Team with him, going back and forth with him, for sure. He has me in the speed events and I have him more so in the tech events. The super-combined is kind of where our two skill sets converge.”|