With the jagged Italian Dolomites as a spectacular backdrop, Ligety carved his way to a third successive World Cup giant slalom victory this past Sunday in the land of pasta, passion and Pavarotti.
Ligety’s image was strewn across more newspapers, televisions and websites from Alta Badia – site of Sunday’s race – to neighboring Val Gardena, which hosted speed races in the days prior, than embattled Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Entering the second run with a 0.15 deficit behind France’s Cyprien Richard, Ligety charged from behind, capitalizing on a blunder by the Frenchman to triumph by 0.14.
“This is a dream come true,” said Ligety after the race in Alta Badia. “It’s the best GS hill on the World Cup circuit. To win today is super special, especially with three in a row.”
The 26-year-old Park City racer is undefeated in GS this season having also won convincingly in Beaver Creek on December 5th and Val d’Isere, France on December 11th.
“He’s skiing impressively in all kinds of conditions,” said U.S. Alpine Head Coach, Sasha Rearick. “Ted has never been fast at the bottom here in Alta Badia. He’s been working on his rolls and flats, and today he skied fantastic down there. Perfect execution.”
“It’s tough to say what the secret is,” said Ligety. “I think a big part is that my physical conditioning is a lot better this year and the Head skis are working awesome. I’m pushing in every GS race to try and go for the win.”
To the dismay of the Euros, Ligety is atop the overall World Cup standings after ten races this season.
The American racer, who is in his 8th season on tour, matched former alpine greats Hermann Maier, Alberto Tomba, Phi Mahre, Michael von Gruenigen and Pirmin Zurbriggen with three straight giant slalom wins.
“I think there is a little more pressure once you start stringing victories together,” said Ligety. “Getting second place probably isn’t going to make me all that happy anymore.”
France’s Jean-Claude Killy claimed four-wins-in-a-row in 1966-67, but the all-time benchmark was set by the legendary Swede, Ingemar Stenmark, who swept all ten giant slaloms during the 1978-79 season.
“It’s awesome to see, he’s just lighting it up,” says Ligety’s U.S. teammate Marco Sullivan. “He’s skiing amazingly well. He’s always had it in him, but he’s just made a lot of mistakes in the past.”
“I’m predicting that he is going to sweep the table in GS this year,” added Sullivan with a wide smirk.
Four World Cup giant slaloms remain on this winter’s schedule. Ligety shoots to equal Killy’s mark come January 8th in Adelboden, Switzerland.