(Reuters) – Double Olympic champion Ted Ligety is not sure what the future will bring when he hangs up his ski boots after racing at the Alpine skiing world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, next week but it will not include coaching.
“Coaches work so frickin hard and it’s not a glorious job,” said an emotional Ligety during a conference call on Wednesday to discuss his approaching retirement.
“It is a slog and it is brutal and because all those reasons I could never see myself doing that. I couldn’t do what they do because they do all the hard parts we do as a ski racer but none of the fun parts.”
There has been plenty of success and fun over 17 seasons on the World Cup tour for the skier known for his unique “flowy” style that made risk look routine.
Ligety, whose last race will be the world championship giant slalom on Feb. 19, will depart after 336 World Cup starts, 25 wins and 52 podiums across five disciplines.
All five of his crystal globes, awarded to the overall champion in each alpine ski World Cup discipline, came in his specialty, the giant slalom.
He also won gold in that event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and another in the combined at the 2006 Turin Games.
His trophy case also includes five world championship golds, including a hat-trick at the 2013 Schladming worlds.
While his resume marks him out as one of the greatest American skiers of all time, Ligety spent much of his career in the shadow of team mates Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn, who became the faces of the sport in the United States.
Despite the attention brought by crossover stars like Vonn and Miller, ski racing in the U.S. remains a niche sport.
That is something Ligety would like to change, although he acknowledges the reality that the sport will never challenge the NBA, NFL, NHL or Major League Baseball in terms of viewers.
“Skiing will never be that sport,” said Ligety. “I think you really need to have stars that show the fun of the sport to build the sport in the U.S.
“A lot of people love skiing but the expectations shouldn’t ever be to be the number one sport, it’s just not a reality.”
Working with his sponsors to create “cool” content around skiing is something Ligety says he will get involved in, but first he will focus on spending time at home with his wife and three children.
After that he may try some professional ski tour events, building the protective ski and snowboard gear company he co-founded and maybe get involved with a future bid to bring the Winter Olympics back to Salt Lake City.
As a teenager Ligety served as forerunner at the 2002 Winter Games pushing him along the road to becoming a racer.
“Love to be involved in an effort to get it back there again,” said Ligety.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis
— to www.reuters.com