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Ted Ligety: Team USA's humbled champion adapts, now finds even greater success

America's top alpine skiing hopeful looks to continue his dominance.

Matthew Stockman

SB Nation 2014 Winter Olympics Preview

Alpine skier Ted Ligety has been on quite a run.

In 2013, he finished on every podium for his specialty, giant slalom, winning six of eight events, and was awarded a customary crystal globe as the overall World Cup title winner. He then went on to take the gold medal at world championships in GS, as well as in Super-G and Combined. The United States Olympic Committee named him both the October Athlete of the Month and, its highest annual individual honor, Olympic SportsMan of the Year.

The 29-year-old Park City, Utah native found early success in his career, taking the gold medal at his first Olympics in 2006 in Turin, Italy in the Combined, a discipline that is the aggregate of one downhill run and two slalom. But it hasn't always come so effortlessly. In fact, Ligety thinks it was one of his biggest failings, in his second Olympic appearance in Vancouver in 2010, that produced his outright dominance ever since. He placed ninth in GS, fifth in Combined, 19th in the Super-G and didn't even finish in the slalom.

"I felt like even a lot of the times when I had won and was on the podium that I still left something on the hill."

"The 2010 Olympics kind of flipped the switch for me," Ligety said from his hometown in September, a mop of bed head atop his noggin. "Up to that point, I had won a globe before, I had won some World Cup races, been on the podium a bunch of times, but I felt like even a lot of the times when I had won and was on the podium that I still left something on the hill. Since then, I've changed my focus in the sense that in the start gate, I want to get to the finish line and be happy with my approach and be happy with my level of intensity. So, because of that, it's definitely made myself much better mentally."

It's certainly hard to argue with Ligety's results. During this year's World Cup tour, he's already landed on four of six possible GS podiums, winning three of those four, which helped continue grabbing the attention of many, including his American peers.

"I think everybody can learn everything about GS from Ted," said 18-year-old women's slalom and GS sensation Mikaela Shiffrin. "He's an incredible GS skier and he really knows how to build the energy in his turns."

Ligety also podiumed in two World Cup Combined events with the collective focus now shifting toward Sochi. Despite all the interest due to his amount of success, Ligety keeps it all in perspective and doesn't forget where he came from, nor lose sight of what he's done to get there.

"I think every kid growing up dreams of being the best in the world," he said. "I don't think you really realize that it can be possible, so I'm definitely surprised with where I am in my career."

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