Ted Ligety berated himself about his half-second margin of victory when he crossed the finish line in the giant slalom to win the first Alpine skiing gold medal of the Sochi Games for the U.S. and a place in Olympic history.
“The competitive side of me when I crossed the finish line, seeing only 48 hundredths, was a little bit mad for not pushing harder,” Liggety said.
Ligety, 29, yesterday became the first U.S. man to win two gold medals in Alpine skiing and first non-European to win the giant slalom. He’s also the first man in Olympic history with gold medals in both the giant slalom and the combined event, which he won at the 2006 Games in Turin.
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His disappointment over the final margin came after he opened a 0.93-second advantage on the field after the first of two runs at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center. His second run was 14th best, leading to the 0.48-second victory over Steve Missillier of France.
The win, and a knee injury to 36-year-old teammate Bode Miller earlier in the competition, makes Ligety “America’s new golden boy of the slopes,” according to Bob Dorfman, executive director at San Francisco-based Baker Street Advertising. Dorfman estimated the medal could be worth about $1 million for Ligety in sponsor bonuses, appearance fees and new marketing opportunities.
“At 29, he could be back for more medal tries in South Korea in 2018, giving marketers a household name and face to latch onto for the next four years,” Dorfman said in an e-mail.
Ligety’s sponsors include Audi AG (NSU), Coca-Cola Co. (KO:US) and Boston-based Putnam Investments LLC, and he’s appeared in television ads during the games for Putnam, Walgreen Co. (WAG:US), Procter & Gamble Co. (PG:US)’s Vicks brand, and Kellogg Co. (K:US)
Ligety finished with a time of 2:45.29 over two runs. Missillier took silver at 2:45.77, followed by countryman Alexis Pinturault at 2:45.93.
Ligety’s first gold medal came at age 21, before he’d won a single World Cup race. He entered the 2010 Vancouver Games with high expectations and left without a medal.
“I’ve answered Vancouver questions for the last four years,” Ligety said. “I’ve moved on and my best years have been since then, in a lot of ways, because of that.”
In the four years since, Ligety has won 16 World Cup races. Last year in Schladming, Austria, he became the first skier since 1968 to win three gold medals at the same world championships, capturing titles in super-G, super combined and giant slalom. Earlier in the Sochi games he placed 12th in the super combined and 14th in the super-G.
Utah native Ligety, who co-founded a ski-equipment company called Shred in 2006, could be a good fit for a car company looking to emphasize speed and handling, or any business-related service, Dorfman said.
Ligety is known by 15 percent of the U.S. population, according to Stamford, Connecticut-based Repucom’s Celebrity DBI data. His total personality score, including likability, inspiration and awareness, is second among U.S. alpine skiers behind Miller.
Miller aggravated a knee injury during the competition and said he won’t ski the slalom event on Feb. 22, his final discipline of the games. Facing a possible end to an Olympic career that has yielded six medals, Miller praised Ligety for reaching the apex of the discipline.
“There’s no question who the best GS skier in the world is,” said Miller, who took silver in the event in 2002.
Ligety, who has been skiing since he was two years old, said this medal means more to him than his first Olympic gold.
“I was just in awe of the Olympics the first time,” Ligety said after the win. “It was a dream come true just to be there, but that medal didn’t have the same meaning as this one. This one means a lot more. I’ve had some struggles, more ups and downs.”
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