Bode Miller vs. Ted Ligety — the tale of the tape

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source: Getty Images
source: Getty Images

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.

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“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
36 Age 29
6′ 2” Height 5′ 11”
196 lbs. Weight 190 lbs.
5 Olympic appearances 3
Gold, 2010 Vancouver
super-combined
Best Olympic finish
Gold, 2006 Torino
Combined
5 Olympic medal won
1
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.”

Usain Bolt, sleep-deprived dad and budding cyclist, would unretire if the man in charge called

Usain Bolt
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Usain Bolt isn’t doing much running these days, but he would unretire if one person asked: longtime coach Glen Mills.

“If my coach came back and told me, let’s do this, I will, because I believe so much in my coach,” Bolt said this week in a video interview with Variety. “So I know if he says we’re going to do this, I know it’s possible. Give Glen Mills a call, and I’ll be back.”

Mills coached Bolt to eight Olympic titles and world records in the 100m (9.58 seconds) and 200m (19.19) before the Jamaican legend retired in 2017. Bolt has occasionally visited the track since, which may have been a mistake.

“My coach gets too excited when I come to the track,” Bolt said, “so I stay away.”

Bolt’s days are now spent as a father to daughter Olympia Lightning Bolt, born in May and introduced to the world via social media on Tuesday. Bolt said parenting is harder than breaking a world record.

“I got sick the first week because I was scared to fall asleep,” said Bolt, adding that he has been spit up on a few times. “So I stayed up at night just watching her because I’m a heavy sleeper. But I’ve learned that I’m going to wake. I’m going to get up no matter what. I’m getting better, and I’m learning.”

Bolt said he was unaware that Serena Williams‘ 2-year-old daughter is named Olympia (as a middle name, but she goes by Olympia) until this week’s reveal. His girlfriend, Kasi Bennett, came up with the name.

“My girlfriend, I told her, I think you’re putting a little bit of pressure on her to name her Olympia,” said Bolt, who previously said he would not encourage his child to take up sprinting. “But, we’ll see, I’m not going to force her to do anything.”

In retirement, Bolt has been seen doing a step class, riding a Peloton and playing professional soccer. Lately, he’s been road cycling with friends, upping the mileage every week.

“I have a newfound respect for cyclists because you see the Tour de France, they make it look easy. It’s not,” Bolt said.

Bolt expressed disappointment with the Olympic postponement to 2021, even though he’s not competing anymore. He does hope to be in Tokyo in some capacity. He found a silver lining.

“The only good thing about is that I actually get to take my daughter next year if the world gets back,” he said. “One of my moments is to have my first born just to walk on the track with me. That’s something that I always thought about.”

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British gymnastics stars speak up about abuse amid investigation

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Decorated British gymnasts Becky and Ellie Downie spoke out about specific abuses they’ve experienced in the sport, becoming the latest athletes to come forward this week.

The Downie sisters, in social media posts on Thursday, said they’ve seen and experienced an “unsafe attitude to young girls’ weight, and the resulting mental health issues” and “dangerous consequences of over-training, which frequently was the norm, for fear of punishment or deselection.”

The comments came two days after British Gymnastics announced it launched an independent review into allegations of abuse in the sport. Before that, former British gymnasts said they were assaulted, bullied or abused by coaches.

“The behaviors we have heard about in recent days are completely contrary to our standards of safe coaching and have no place in our sport,” British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen said Tuesday. “It is clear that gymnasts did not feel they could raise their concerns to British Gymnastics, and it is vital that an independent review helps us better understand why so we can remove any barriers as quickly as possible.”

The Downie sisters are Olympians and world championships medalists.

“Over the past few days we’ve been watching our former teammates and friends bravely sharing their stories, and we can’t sit by and not offer support for them by sharing our own experiences,” they posted with the caption, “Our Story.” “Speaking out is something we’ve both felt we really needed to do for a long time now, but in truth, we’ve been afraid to do so.”

Becky Downie, the 2019 World silver medalist on uneven bars, said she was overtrained “to the point of physical breakdown” many times.

She said she was called “mentally weak” for speaking up at a national team camp and later suffered an ankle injury as a result of the unsafe training approaches. Downie required a fourth surgery on the ankle.

Ellie Downie, the 2019 World bronze medalist on vault, said she’s been made to feel ashamed of her weight for almost her entire career. That included a nutritionist telling her to submit daily photos of her in her underwear and everything she ate to ensure she wasn’t lying about her diet.

She said she was told at a national camp to lose six kilograms (13 pounds). If she hadn’t “made a dent” within two weeks, “there’d be consequences.”

The sisters said gymnasts were weighed regularly.

“We all know off by heart the weight of a bottle of water, and consequently eating and drinking the night before weigh day wasn’t worth the risk,” Ellie wrote. “To this day we still hide food for the fear of it being found.”

The Downies said there has been change since Becky Downie spoke up in 2018 about unsafe training, including the discontinuation of routine weigh-ins.

“We’re aware our contribution raises more troubling issues the sport must confront, but we truly hope it will contribute to positive change,” they wrote. “What’s clear from speaking to many different gymnasts from all over the world, this is a gymnastics culture problem, as opposed to just a national one.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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