LA VILLA, ITALY — Ted Ligety's back hurt so badly one month ago that he couldn't even bend over and touch his knees.
An Olympic and three-time world champion in giant slalom, Ligety tried to ski anyway.
Then he tore cartilage in his hip.
The final result was that the skier known as "Mr. GS" missed nearly a month of training.
No wonder the American is struggling to regain the form that helped him win the season opener in Soelden, Austria.
"I'm definitely smaller and weaker than I was two months ago," Ligety said after finishing fourth in the World Cup giant slalom in Alta Badia on Sunday. "I'm not in good shape."
While Ligety did finish second in a super-G in Beaver Creek, Colorado, earlier this month, his preferred discipline of GS has been a disappointment.
Ligety fell during the opening run of the GS in Beaver Creek, didn't qualify for the second leg in Val d'Isere, France, last weekend, then needed a super second run Sunday to move up from 10th after a rough morning leg.
"It was a nice step in the right direction," Ligety said. "I'm just trying to get healthy again and get the feeling back."
Marcel Hirscher won Sunday's race for his third consecutive GS victory.
Ligety, meanwhile, is dealing with three herniated disks and a torn labrum in his hip.
"I have a plethora of things going on," he said. "I had some injections on everything and it feels better now."
It didn't seem too serious when Ligety injured his back.
"I just tweaked it," he said. "That was it. That's the problem with the new skis — they hurt everybody's back. ... It's an unfortunate new reality."
Ligety blamed himself for the hip problem.
"I tried to ski a little bit and just couldn't do it at all," he said. "I would slide around and try to make a turn and just couldn't do it."
Ligety has won 24 GS races, second to Ingemar Stenmark's record 46. Three years ago, he won the first run by an almost unheard of 2.40 seconds en route to his second win in Alta Badia.
"Ted is a learned athlete. Everyone thinks he's a natural-born gifted skier," U.S. head coach Sasha Rearick said. "He's a natural-born hard worker and he works his butt off to get better and he had to take close to a month off and he hasn't had quite the reps and miles in it."
Having broken his wrist, Ligety also struggled last season, winning only one World Cup race — although he won the gold medal in GS at worlds in Beaver Creek.
And over the summer Ligety married his longtime girlfriend, Mia Pascoe.
Now he just needs to get healthy again.
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf