'Mixed emotions' for last-run Ligety

Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) (AFP) –


Two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety said he had "mixed emotions" going into his last world ski championships, but insisted he was not in Cortina d'Ampezzo to make up the numbers.

The American will retire after competing in the men's giant slalom in Cortina next week.

It will cap an outstanding career for the 36-year-old, who has won two Olympic gold medals (alpine combined in 2006, giant slalom in 2014) and seven world championship medals, including five golds.

Ligety also notched up 25 World Cup victories and 52 podium placings in 336 starts.

"I feel even more confident of that decision (to retire) as time is going on," Ligety told AFP in an interview on Wednesday.

"I'm not planning on doing a sort of a ceremonial, I'm trying to get there and race to win.

"I think that I could be a contender, I'm just hoping to throw down a good race for the last one."

Despite being one of the elder statesmen on the circuit, Ligety insisted that skiing still gave him "the same feeling in the start gate as it did when I was 19 years old for my first World Cup".

"That's what's cool with ski racing, being in the gates, it's always thrilling."

Ligety was at the forefront of forcing the international ski federation (FIS) into changes in the shape and design of skis for his favoured giant slalom event -- even though they were again altered against his taste after that.

- 'Take ownership' -

Decrying current straight course-setting rather than "curvier" races he prefers, Ligety had some words of advice for the new generation.

"Always be searching for the next step, taking ownership of everything you do," he said.

"That's the biggest thing I can see, especially among some of the younger kids, they always have some excuse and don't always own their programme.

"That's a big part of why I've gotten to where I've gotten. I always ask questions and search out the answers for how to get better. I'm never satisfied just with where I am, I'm trying to figure out ways how to fix my body, get stronger for the sport, or skiing wise trying something new."

Ligety credited a moment when he was a forerunner before the main races at the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City as a major turning point in his view of skiing.

"One of the biggest eye openers for me was sitting there at the start before the runs and realising that these guys were at the pinnacle of their game and they weren't that much different to me and my buddies at an FIS race," he said.

"They were still talking and joking and that's when I realised you don't have to be like a robot to do this sport, you can just focus on your time on the course, between the fences, and the rest of the time you can still have fun, it's a cool atmosphere and you're still buddies with your competitors.

"That was an eye opener for me, you didn't have to change who you were to be a good ski racer, you could still have fun with it."