Ligety finds a new way to win — by sponsoring his rivals
SANTA CATERINA VALFURVA, Italy (AP) — Slowed by injuries, Ted Ligety is finding a new way to win.
By sponsoring some of his biggest rivals.
Ten years after founding Shred - the ski helmet, eyewear and accessory company known for its 1980s-style fluorescent colors and designs — Ligety has been watching as a proud spectator lately.
"Good to see my company winning while I'm on the sideline," Ligety wrote on Instagram when Shred athletes Cyprien Sarrazin and Carlo Janka faced off in the final of a World Cup parallel giant slalom earlier this month in Alta Badia.
Bothered by an aching back, Ligety — the Olympic and two-time world champion in giant slalom — sat out the parallel race.
In all, Shred athletes have won eight races this season. Swiss standout Lara Gut and French ace Alexis Pinturault have three each while two more Frenchmen, Mathieu Faivre and Sarrazin, have one each.
Former overall World Cup champion Carlo Janka of Switzerland also wears Shred, as do a number of rising American racers — plus snowboarders and freestyle skiers.
"It's cool to see a lot of my biggest competitors on the product," Ligety said in an interview.
While Ligety has set the golden standard, he's just one of many U.S. Ski Team athletes who have started entrepreneurial ventures.
Last year, Bode Miller has become the co-owner of the New York-based Bomber Ski brand.
After her Kiss My Tiara underwear moment, Julia Mancuso has moved on to Pure Golden Wellness, a health and fitness coaching initiative.
Steven Nyman and his brother created Fantasy Ski Racer.
And a group of young racers led by Brennan Rubie recently got together to pose in a nude calendar called "Under the Suit: The Bodies of the Ski Team," the sales of which are helping them fund their travel around Europe.
"This is a new experience for us. We're running it ourselves, setting up the website and marketing it," Rubie said. "We can grow as people and market ourselves and also grow as skiers."
Along the same lines, Tommy Biesemeyer runs a fundraising event for the "B'' team in Vail, Colorado, each November during training camp.
Besides pure American entrepreneurial spirit, U.S. skiers have plenty of time to dream up business and financial plans as they travel through the Alps while their European rivals go home between races.
"They're building skills — organization skills, leadership skills — and realizing how hard life is," U.S. men's head coach Sasha Rearick said. "Those are all things that are super important for these guys to be better people in the world. It's something that I've always encouraged, along with going to school."
Ligety and Italian friend Carlo Salmini founded Shred to take advantage of Ligety's newfound popularity after his unexpected gold medal in combined at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
"We had no business plan, no business knowledge or skills — just passion and the drive to make the products of our dreams," Salmini said.
Ligety and Salmini met in 2005 when Ligety took a liking to the carbon-fiber shin and arm guards that Salmini was making in his Venice home.
"I started everything out of my garage," Salmini said. "Ted won the Olympics on the shin guards that I had made with my own hands."
Ligety and Salmini also run Slytech, which produces body protection equipment for skiing and mountain biking, with the umbrella company called Anomaly Action Sports
These days, most of the company's production is done in China, Taiwan and South Korea and Ligety joins Salmini for a two-week trip to Asia each spring to check on production.
The company's headquarters are about to be consolidated in Ligety's hometown of Park City, Utah.
"Which is nice because it's a five-minute bike ride from my house," Ligety said. "It will be cool to have it there and be there on a regular basis and not always Skyping in."
Between Italy and the United States, Anomaly employs 25 people and has sales in 40 countries spanning from North American to Europe and Asia.
While they have been approached by bigger companies, Ligety and Salmini have no immediate plans to sell.
"We don't feel we're ready. We want to be independent," Salmini said. "It's constantly growing, even though the world of winter sports is in difficulty."
Dedicating more time to the company seems like the perfect retirement plan for the 32-year-old Ligety, who is nearing the end of his career.
"It's good," Ligety said, "to have something else to rely on and fall back on."