Commentary

Is Ligety next U.S. superhero of slopes?

Updated: September 12, 2009, 12:03 AM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- We're five months from the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and so far, there have been no controversial Bode Miller quotes about skiing while drunk. For that matter, we haven't heard many quotes from Miller, period, not even a definitive answer on whether he will ski in Vancouver.

[+] EnlargeTed Ligety
AP Photo/Scanpix/Janerik HenrikssonTed Ligety won gold in the combined at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

In his most recent diary entry on Universal Sports' Web site, Miller said he's thinking about turning part of his New Hampshire farm into (surprise!) a winery, but as far as his Olympic plans, he wrote only "I am considering all my options for the coming season" and hinted at a decision within a couple of weeks.

"That's a great question," U.S. skier Scott Macartney said during Thursday's U.S. Olympic media summit when asked about what Miller will do. "I don't know. I've heard some rumors of him training. Outside of being physically ready, I'm sure he's in great shape. As far as being on snow, I don't know if he's been in New Zealand or somewhere. In my mind, he has to start training [within] the next month on snow. I wouldn't be ready if I waited any longer than that. I'm sure there will be some sort of announcement that he'll be on snow or that he won't do it."

Of course, there are those who would make a case that Miller didn't show up at the 2006 Olympics, when despite all the hype, he finished no higher than fifth and failed to finish three races at all.

One skier who definitely did show in Torino was Ted Ligety, who won the gold medal in the combined and followed it up with the 2008 World Cup season title in the giant slalom.

"I like to think that my life hasn't changed that much," the 25-year-old Ligety said Thursday. "I still say that I'm the same person I was back then. I don't live at home with my parents anymore, so that's a big difference. Obviously, the sponsor stuff helps a lot after an accomplishment like that, but otherwise I feel like I'm the same person. I just don't have to live with my parents anymore."

"After he won his gold medal, he was still Ted," U.S. skier Marco Sullivan said. "He's not holding himself apart from the group. Within the group, he's not trying to get the king-sized bed or anything."

Ligety partially tore an ACL at the end of last season but said it was relatively minor as ski injuries go and he's ready for Vancouver. The attention on him heading into these Olympics will be much different than 2006, when he was just one of many rather than a defending gold medalist.

"The pressure is OK. I've always thrived on that, but there's definitely a lot more hoopla," he said. "But to me, it's still business, and I'm focused on that."

After what Miller went through four years ago, Ligety also is aware of what not to say heading into the Olympics.

"Most of the attention [on Miller] was after the Olympics," Ligety said. "As a skier, you just weren't focusing on it. You didn't really care. It's really not surprising if a skier doesn't medal, even if he is the favorite. It's really difficult in that sense in that we're not in a swimming pool or on the track.

"There are a million different variables that more often than not work at your disadvantage. So it's never surprising when the favorite doesn't medal. It was too bad because we were all rooting for each other as a team, but you have to kind of approach each race with a calculated nonchalance, and hopefully everything goes your way."

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is at jimcaple.net.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com