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(Reuters) - Double Olympic champion Ted Ligety, who planned to retire on his own terms after next week's Alpine skiing world championships, abruptly called time on his career 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 final race of his career but has since been hit with what he described as the worst sciatic pain of his life.
"I can't point to anything that triggered it but I had been experiencing low grade sciatica for a week or two which was 'normal' for me on occasion for the last several years," Ligety wrote on Instagram.
"An MRI revealed my discs at L4-5 and L5-S1 are herniated to the point it's not safe to ski right now."
Ligety has five world championship golds -- three in giant slalom in 2011, 2013 and 2015 as well as super-G and combined in 2013 -- and two bronzes.
His golden triple at Schladming, Austria, in 2013 made him the first male skier to win three or more at a single championships since France's Jean-Claude Killy took four in 1968.
The American's final race was scheduled for Friday but Ligety said his focus is now on getting his back healthy enough to support a lifetime of playing and skiing with his kids.
"I was excited to race one last time then retire on my own terms," said Ligety. "Unfortunately it was not to be, my back said I'm the boss and you are finished now."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)