Can Ligety medal again at Winter Games?

February, 10, 2010
02/10/10
10:16
PM ET

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- American alpine skier Ted Ligety entered the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino with no publicity, no expectations and no pressure. He was just 21 years old, and he'd never finished better than 10th in a men's combined race. He came out of nowhere and took gold.

Four years later, things have changed. At least a little bit.

Ligety, now 25, is favored to win gold in the giant slalom. He's a defending champ in the combined.

"There's definitely more pressure, for sure," he said Wednesday during a pre-Olympics press conference here. "I'm very motivated to try and win another one, and there's always more pressure at the Olympics. Last time, nobody was paying attention to me. There are definitely more people having expectations and wondering what's going on with me."

True, but most of the men's alpine team -- and nearly every other athlete in Vancouver -- has been overshadowed by Lindsey Vonn, racing in all five ski events, who has snagged the lion's share of the Olympic spotlight. Her share only grows as the world wonders whether she will recover from her shin injury in time to race. "So much is going on around Lindsey, and she's considered to be such a medal threat," Ligety said. "So we're all playing a little backseat."

Ligety, despite carrying the weight of his gold medal, isn't even the biggest story on his team. It seems more folks are wondering whether Bode Miller can redeem himself after finishing medal-less in Torino. The contrary Miller stole the show at the men's alpine news conference in Whistler on Wednesday afternoon, fielding question after question, while Ligety and the rest of the team relaxed in their chairs. After the news conference, Ligety leaned against the stage, gestured toward the crowd of journalists who had gathered around Miller and said, "This is what he calls being under the radar."

After the Torino Games, Ligety took himself off the radar, reaching the World Cup podium only twice during the 2007 season. He rebounded in 2008, winning the World Cup overall title in the giant slalom. In January, he won his first World Cup race this season, and pushed past Austria's Benjamin Raich for the overall lead in the World Cup giant slalom standings. Ligety is now favored for gold in that event.

"Four years ago, I was mostly a slalom skier," he said. "I think I've really taken my skiing to another level. I've become more of a giant slalom skier. I've worked hard over the last few years to get the speed, and I've improved a lot in the speed events. I've become more of a whole skier than I was last time around."

A win here in GS would prove just that.

Lindsay Berra is an avid CrossFitter and a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on twitter @lindsayberra.

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