PARK CITY — Ted Ligety accepted the praise of a proud city after a season that cemented his legacy as one of the best American alpine skiers in history.
"This is definitely very humbling,” said the 28-year-old who returned to his home town after a record-setting season that included three gold medals at world championships, six World Cup wins and a fourth giant slalom title. “It’s the first time we’ve done something of this magnitude; it was a lot of fun. I feel unbelievably fortunate to have grown up in Park City.”
Ligety skied down Park City Mountain Resort’s Payday run with members of the Park City Ski Team. They all carried flags from around the world, and Ligety beamed as the crowd waiting at the bottom of the hill cheered.
Ligety was given an official Park City silver coin from Park City Mayor Dana Williams.
“You represent the very best we have to offer,” he said after presenting a grinning Ligety with the coin.
Also on hand to welcome Ligety home and congratulate him on an “unbelievable season” were USSA President Bill Marolt and Olympian Stein Eriksen, who won three gold medals at the 1954 World Championships.
“He is a gentle winner,” Eriksen said, directing his comments to the young skiers crowding around the podium where Ligety stood on a cloudy Saturday afternoon. “He is a champion, in my opinion, the way it should be.”
Then he turned to Ligety, whom he’d never met until Saturday’s festivities.
“You have everything going for you — good looks, personality, talent — but the most important thing is that you represent the greatest country in the world,” Eriksen said. “And you are a great ambassador for the United States of America.”
He admonished the aspiring ski racers to keep Ligety in mind as they developed their own ski careers.
“Keep that little thing in your mind that says, ‘I want to be like Ted,’ ” the 85-year-old said.
Former U.S. Ski Team coach and now Powdr Corp. chief operating officer Herwig Demschar pointed out that Ligety failed to make the Park City Ski Team’s development team when he first tried out.
“But he worked hard and made it the next year, and eventually made it to the U.S. Ski Team and the Olympics,” said Demschar. “You’re a humble person, and whenever we ask you to participate in any community events, you’re always willing. But what I love most about you is that I think you love skiing.”
He gushed about Ligety’s “good attitude about working hard” and pointed out that he makes the best of any situation.
“Some have called you a hero,” he said. “I don’t think you’re a hero. I think you’re a legend.” Marolt called Ligety’s success this season an “unbelievable year.” He credits his success to hard work and a positive attitude.
“This guy works harder than anybody on our team,” he said. “He works harder than anybody in the world.”
He also spoke about the Olympic spirit and how a community like Park City contributes to the success of skiers on a world stage.
“This is what comes from that,” he said, beaming at Ligety.
Ligety’s parents also spoke and thanked the community for its support of their son. His father, Bill Ligety, said parents often ask how they can help their children succeed in the sport.
“Stay out of their way,” he said to laughter. “Ted often says, if we’d pushed him into skiing, he wouldn’t have liked it. They’ve got to follow their own dreams.”
His mom choked back emotion as she spoke of her son and thanked those involved in the city’s youth ski programs for their help in developing his talent.
“Dar Hendrickson taught the kids the best lesson of all,” said Cyndi Sharp. “He makes the kids carry their own skis and equipment.”
Ligety grew up on the slopes of Park City, even calling the offerings at Park City Mountain Resort “my baby-sitter.”
“Those were really great times,” he said of his time with the Park City Ski Team. He also thanked Eriksen specifically for his attendance Saturday.
“I remember going to Deer Valley and trying to beat his time on the Nastar course. That was always a big motivator as well. There are just so many opportunities in Park City. It’s really cool to have this kind of welcome home in Park City. It’s just a great place and supports local kids and everybody who comes through here, so it’s always fun to come back home and be able to ski around and get this kind of welcome.”
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