Ted Ligety wanted to retire on his own terms. His back won’t allow it.
The 36-year-old American ended his ski racing career immediately on Saturday, six days before his planned farewell giant slalom at the world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
“Yesterday, I woke up to the worst sciatic pain of my life,” was posted on Ligety’s social media. “I can’t point to anything that triggered it but I had been experiencing low grade sciatica for a week or two which was ‘normal’ for me on occasion for the last several years. An MRI revealed my discs at L4-5 and L5-S1 are herniated to the point it’s not safe to ski right now.”
Ligety, a two-time Olympic champion and the most decorated U.S. male skier with seven Olympic or world titles, said his back has been in control of his skiing for the last six years.
The 36-year-old had surgery four years ago, during an Olympic cycle in which he struggled through injuries.
“The surgery was largely successful and greatly reduced my symptoms,” was posted on Ligety’s social media on Saturday. “But if I’m honest with myself my back was never the same again. Okay became good and bad became fine. I tricked myself into thinking it was good and could support the forces needed to win, clearly it could not.”
Last week, Ligety said he was retiring one year before the Olympics because he wanted to spend more time with his wife and three young children. He said his back was also “definitely part of the equation.”
Ligety, whose last World Cup podium was three years ago and last win was in 2015, hoped to summon one more magical race in Friday’s giant slalom in Cortina, exactly seven years after winning the second of his two Olympic gold medals and more than 17 years after his World Cup debut.
“I was excited to race one last time then retire on my own terms,” was posted on Ligety’s social media. “To dig deep, throw down and see what would be possible. Perhaps conjure up some ‘vintage Ligety’. Unfortunately it was not to be, my back said I’m the boss and you are finished now.”
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