© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. winner Ted Ligety holds his national flag high during the flower ceremony for the men’s giant slalom event in alpine skiing at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center
(Reuters) – Double Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety, who wanted to retire on his own terms after the Alpine World Ski Championships next week, abruptly ended his career as a timer on Saturday due to a bad back.
The 36-year-old American announced earlier this week that the giant slalom in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy would be the last race of his career but has since been struck by what he described as the worst sciatic pain of his life.
“I can’t point to anything that triggered it, but I’ve had poor quality sciatica for a week or two, which has been ‘normal’ for me at times over the past few years,” Ligety wrote on Instagram.
“An MRI showed that my intervertebral discs at L4-5 and L5-S1 have herniated so much that it is currently no longer safe to ski.”
Ligety has five world championship gold medals – three in giant slalom in 2011, 2013 and 2015 as well as Super-G and 2013 combined – and two bronzes.
His gold triple in Schladming, Austria, in 2013 made him the first male skier to win three or more in a single championship since Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy won four in 1968.
The American’s last race was scheduled for Friday, but Ligety said his focus now is on getting his back healthy enough to play and ski with his kids for a lifetime.
“I was thrilled to race one last time and then withdraw on my own terms,” said Ligety. “Unfortunately it shouldn’t be, my back said I’m the boss and you’re done now.”
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