Ted Ligety retires from Alpine ski racing, completing his arc

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Ted Ligety, the self-proclaimed mediocre teenager who ended up with the most gold medals among American male ski racers, is making one last unique arc in a career defined by them.

Ligety will retire after the world championships that begin Tuesday in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. His last race: a giant slalom on Feb. 19, exactly seven years after winning the second of his two Olympic gold medals and more than 17 years after his World Cup debut.

Ligety, 36, began this season planning to ski through the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. He changed his mind over the last few weeks.

“Family is the reason why,” he told NBC Sports.

Ligety and wife Mia have three boys: Jax, 3, and twins Alec and Will, who are 6 months old.

Ligety pared his World Cup schedule in recent seasons, skiing almost exclusively GS events, to spend more time at home in Park City, Utah, and less of the bulk of fall and winter in Europe.

“It’s hard missing their development and growing up,” he said. “I just had a hard time squaring that with what I was doing in the mountain.

“You don’t always get to choose the perfect opportunity and your time, but this was the right time. Made the most sense for me and my family, and I’m just happy to be able to leave on my own terms.”

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: TV Schedule

Ligety, a five-time world champion with 25 World Cup victories (24 in giant slalom), underwent knee and back surgeries since his last win in 2015.

His last podium came three years ago. He came to peace with stepping away after finishing outside the top 30 in back-to-back races last month. Before the 2019-20 season, Ligety said he would not compete much longer if he wasn’t contending.

“I’ve had a lot of hard miles on this body,” he said before worlds, noting he doesn’t feel perfect but also isn’t having any acute pain. “My back has not been great for years, and that’s definitely part of the equation.”

Ligety began skiing at age 2, but when he later tried out for the local team in Park City, he didn’t make the cut. When Ligety put the Olympics as a goal, coaches told him to be more realistic.

He made it at age 17 in 2002, but as a forerunner for the Salt Lake City Olympic slalom (three weeks after finishing 71st in a lower-level slalom, 15 seconds behind the winner). After high school, Ligety still asked his parents if he could forgo college for a year to give this ski racing thing a shot.

He ended up on the U.S. development team, costing his parents $10,000, and debuted on the World Cup at age 19 with “MOM+DAD” taped to the front of his helmet in lieu of a sponsor.

The story arc changed in 2006. Ligety slept through his alarm for a World Cup in South Korea, then notched his first win on the circuit the following day.

“That was Ted in the beginning,” then-teammate Erik Schlopy said. “He persevered, he loved the sport enough to keep doing it and he proved that you don’t have to be a racer that dominates junior racing.”

Also that winter, Ligety stunned the Olympic crowd in Sestriere, Italy, by winning the combined. He was 32nd fastest in the downhill, then posted the fastest first slalom run and saw favorite Benni Raich of Austria hook a gate two-thirds down the course in the finale.

“It was neat for me to see Ted go from being this awkward, self-conscious just kind of bullied kid,” 2006 and 2010 Olympic teammate Jimmy Cochran said, “to becoming a superstar. In becoming the best in the world, he became this sort of proud but humble man.”

Ligety is still shocked by what happened that night.

“I mean, every kid dreams of being the best ever, the best in the world and all that stuff,” he said. “But I also dreamed of being John Stockton.”

Ligety left Torino hungrier, determined to back up the singular result. He won the first of his five World Cup season titles in the GS in 2008. But at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, he was fifth in the combined and ninth in the GS as a medal favorite.

“Crumbled under that pressure,” he said.

The U.S. Alpine team was a juggernaut at the time, smack in the middle of a golden generation that also included Lindsey VonnJulia Mancuso and Bode Miller. Ligety, the last of the quartet to retire, bagged the most combined Olympic and world championships gold medals of the group, a tally of seven that Mikaela Shiffrin matched in 2019. (A teenage Shiffrin once cherished watching Ligety study race film in silence for 15 minutes, marveling, “How do you ski so fast?”)

“Ted was so dominant that everyone tried to follow him,” Miller said. “If you’re trying to copy somebody else in a sport like that, you’re very unlikely to be able to do what they do better than they do it.”

Nobody has since replicated what Ligety accomplished in February 2013 during the best 10-day stretch of his skiing career.

He swept the super-G, super combined and the giant slalom at the world championships. He became the first man to win at least three golds at an Olympics or worlds since Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy in 1968.

By 2014, Ligety was so dominant in his trademark event, once winning by 2.75 seconds, that he was labeled “Mr. GS.” Chief rival Marcel Hirscher of Austria coined the nickname. That made his Sochi Olympic gold in the giant slalom a requisite.

“A huge sigh of relief,” he said, after pre-Olympic hype included a JC Penney music video commercial for “Go Ligety,” a remixed version of Blackstreet’s 1996 hit “No Diggity.”

Ligety’s legacy: not only his stats and championship pedigree, but also the way he arced GS turns. The special sauce came from childhood freeskiing, dragging his armpits on the snow in contests.

“He creates so much edge angle with his hip early in the turn that he can generate speed above the fall line,” Miller said. “In some cases, I’d go 10 or 15 meters less, and he could beat me in time. That just meant he was traveling much faster going a longer distance.

“My ass would hit the ground when I was skiing GS, too, but he got it so early on the turn.”

Ligety, who co-founded the ski apparel company Shred in 2006, still loves so much about skiing despite frustrations these last seasons. He will continue to rip around Park City with Jax (maybe Alec and Will, too) and even visit the circuit in Europe.

“The context is going to dramatically change,” he said. “It’s just a part of my life that I’ll be leaving behind, and it’ll be different.”

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2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships TV, live stream schedule

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Every race of the world Alpine skiing championships airs live on Peacock from Feb. 6-19.

France hosts the biennial worlds in Meribel and Courchevel — six women’s races, six men’s races and one mixed-gender team event.

Mikaela Shiffrin is the headliner, in the midst of her most successful season in four years with a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts. Shiffrin is up to 85 career World Cup victories, one shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s record accumulated over the 1970s and ’80s.

World championships races do not count in the World Cup tally.

Shiffrin is expected to race at least four times at worlds, starting with Monday’s combined. She earned a medal in 11 of her 13 career world championships races, including each of the last 10 dating to 2015.

Shiffrin won at least one race at each of the last five world championships (nobody has gold from six different worlds). Her six total golds and 11 total medals are American records. At this edition, she can become the most decorated skier in modern world championships history from any nation.

She enters one medal shy of the record for most individual world championships medals since World War II (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt) and four medals shy of the all-time record. (Worlds were held annually in the 1930s, albeit with fewer races.)

She is also one gold medal shy of the post-World War II individual record shared by Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson.

The other favorites at these worlds include Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top female downhiller this season, and the two leading men: Swiss Marco Odermatt (No. 1 in super-G and giant slalom) and Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (No. 1 in downhill).

2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships Broadcast Schedule

Date Event Time (ET) Platform
Mon., Feb. 6 Women’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Tues., Feb. 7 Men’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 8 Women’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 9 Men’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 11 Women’s Downhill 5 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Men’s Downhill 5 a.m Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Tue., Feb. 14 Team Parallel 6:15 a.m. Peacock
Men’s/Women’s Parallel Qualifying 11 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 15 Men’s/Women’s Parallel 6 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 16 Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Fri., Feb. 17 Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 18 Women’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 19 Men’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock

*Delayed broadcast
*All NBC coverage streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for TV subscribers.

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Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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