SCHLADMING, Austria (Reuters) - Ted Ligety might not have received a message from President Barack Obama after completing his hat-trick of skiing world titles on Friday, but it was still an astonishing achievement.
An unassuming figure in a sport which struggles for airtime outside a few Alpine nations, the American was just happy to get a few texts from his closest friends.
“Barack didn’t text me,” joked Ligety after it was pointed out that Aksel Lund Svindal receives congratulatory messages from the King of Norway when he wins major titles.
“I had a few emails from my friends... my brother wasn’t here but I think he would have come if he had known it would have been like this.”
Ligety, who also won the super-G and super combined events over the past two weeks, became the first male skier for 45 years to win three titles at the same world championships when he sealed victory in Friday’s giant slalom.
Some experts argue it was more difficult in the past to complete a treble when there were only three disciplines instead of five nowadays.
However, Sasha Rearick, coach of the United States men’s skiing team, said the opposite was true.
“No one has done this in the modern era because of the development of the World Cup,” he said, referring to the season-long circuit which involves weekly races in venues around Europe and North America.
“You have tremendous athletes, programs, national teams and company support pushing at a very high level.
“Over the last 30 years, specialists have developed in multiple events so to be able to win in three events has been impossible.
“When you think of the greats like Lasse Kjus, Kjetil Aamodt and Hermann Maier, and they haven’t done it. It’s an amazing, absolutely amazing achievement for Ted.”
Ligety has been dominant in the giant slalom for several years, also winning the gold medal at the last world championships in 2011.
He was the World Cup champion in the category in 2008, 2010 and 2011 although he lost out to Marcel Hirscher last season.
He has been remarkably consistent in the discipline, having completed every World Cup giant slalom race he has competed in over the last four years.
The 28-year-old arrived in Schladming expecting to defend his giant slalom title but did not foresee any more golds, having never won a race in any other discipline apart from the combined gold medal at the Turin Winter Games in 2006.
“This week has been by far the best skiing in my life,” he said. “It’s been phenomenal to win three golds, especially in two events I haven’t won before.
“It’s far exceeded my expectations, it’s been surreal. It’s not something I set out to accomplish.”
Even Ligety thought that a fourth gold in Sunday’s slalom would be beyond him, however.
“I like to think I could get another but my expectations aren’t that high,” he said. “If I have two awesome runs and I get lucky, I have a chance but only if I get a little bit lucky.”
Editing by Mark Meadows; firstname.lastname@example.org; +41 79 917 1402; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com