No spoilers here: skier Ted Ligety is a champ. The Utah native – who won gold in Italy in 2006 – is heading into his big weekend of Sochi competition as a heavy favorite, having raced in the Alpine Skiing Men’s Super Combined Friday and racing the Alpine Skiing Men’s Super-G on Sunday.
But who is the man behind the mask? PEOPLE caught up with the 29-year-old shortly before he headed to Sochi to round up some intel on the adorable athlete (but sorry ladies, he’s taken).
1. He’s been wearing skis since he could walk
“My parents started me in skiing when I was 2,” he explains. “They put up with me when I was a little kid kicking and screaming down the slope, allowed me to foster my love for it, and taught me about hard work.” It paid off: by age 10, “I decided I really wanted to become a ski racer,” he says. “Every kid has a dream of being a pro athlete, but I worked hard until it came to fruition.”
2. If you’re not following him on Twitter, you should be
Ligety is only home about 70 days a year – meaning he’s out on cool skiing adventures the rest. So “it’s fun to share stuff,” he says. “I take pictures wherever I go, because I’m documenting it for myself but also sharing it with my fans. My parents actually have a lot of fun following along, too; sometimes that’s easier for them to know exactly what I’m seeing, than talking on the phone every once in a while.”
3. It’s not always fun being an athlete
Though there’s not much he loves more than hitting the slopes, “there’s parts of it that are a job,” Ligety says of his sport. “But I would say 95 percent of the time it’s a lot of fun. When you’re skiing it’s fun, but the middle of the summer when you’re in the gym working out and there’s no snow around – that’s not always so fun. But I know what I’m doing it for, so it keeps my motivation high.”
4. He’s cute with kids
For one week of every year, Ligety coaches kids at ski camp in Park City, Utah. “Our age range is actually like 7 to 87, but I’m generally with kids in the 10 to 13 range, just starting ski racing, so it’s always fun to work with them,” he shares.
5. His gold medal is in a very safe place
“My mom keeps them,” Ligety, who’s part of P&G’s "Thank You, Mom" campaign, admits of his 2006 gold and all of his additional awards. “She’s more protective of that kind of stuff than I am.”
Catch Ligety Sunday beginning at 7 p.m. ET on NBC.