March 5, 2006
YONG PYONG, South Korea (USST Press Release)—Newly crowned Olympic combined champion Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) punched through the second run of a weathered-delayed giant slalom Sunday to claim the first World Cup victory of his young career in a race where the top four skiers were just four-hundredths of a second apart.
Ligety, who was seventh in the 48-gate first run, had a two-run time of 2:18.54. Former slalom world champion Kalle Palander of Finland and Italy's David Simoncelli - the winner Saturday in the first of two giant slaloms here - tied for second in 2:18.57. World Cup leader Benjamin Raich of Austria finished fourth with a time of 2:18.58.
The 21-year-old, who reached his first World Cup podiums earlier this season in three slaloms, surprised himself by winning in giant slalom. He figured the upcoming slaloms - Friday and Saturday on the 1998 Olympic course in Shiga Kogen, Japan - offered his best chance for more top-3s.
Ligety: "pretty crazy ... pretty stupid (but pretty cool)
"To be able to pull this off today in a GS is beyond words. It's pretty crazy for me to do it in GS, Ligety said. "I would have expected it in slalom but in GS is pretty stupid.
His goal, he said, had been to score points in giant slalom this season and slalom top-3s "here and there...
"I was more hoping for these races in Japan to really shine, he said.
Sunday's performance came out of the blue. It also makes him the fourth U.S. Ski Team racer to win this winter - following Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA - three downhill victories), Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH - a GS win) and Lindsey Kildow (Vail, CO - two DH wins and a super G triumph); last season, there also were four U.S. skiers who won World Cup races (Rahlves, Miller, Kildow and Sarah Schleper - also Vail, CO).
With temperatures in the mid-30s on a day where high winds forced a four-hour delay in the first run, Rahlves was the only other American to reach the second run. Bronze medalist in GS at the 2005 World Championships, Rahlves finished 13th in 2:19.25.
"I never would have thought that my first World Cup win would have come in giant slalom. I was more hoping for these races in Japan to really shine, he said.[pagebreak]"It's awesome that I pulled through today, he said, smiling sheepishly - and joyously - while he repeated how his giant slalom breakthrough was "pretty crazy.
His best previous GS result was eighth, which came in the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria, last October.
Preseason speed work paying off in all events
Ligety, who began to emerge a year ago in combined, to go with his traditional strength in slalom, trained last summer with the U.S. downhill squad to better equip him for speed. He also spent more time working on his GS as he looks to become a solid four-event racer, like Norwegians Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Lasse Kjus, his two all-round role models from Ligety's childhood.
"This year I had some opportunities for speed and more GS, and it's paid off, he said. "It's made me a much better skier across the board.
His gold-medal performance at the Olympics in combined "definitely gives me a lot of confidence in every race, he explained. At the Olympics, he was skiing well in GS before going out, he said, "so I knew I was skiing fast.
The men's tour heads next to Japan for slaloms Friday and Saturday in Shiga Kogen before completing the season March 15-19 in Are, Sweden, host of the 2007 World Alpine Ski Championships. The U.S. Alpine Championships return to Sugarloaf, Maine, for the first time since 1997 with races March 25-30.
MEN'S ALPINE WORLD CUP
Yong Pyong, KOR - March 5, 2006
Men's Giant Slalom
1. Ted Ligety, Park City, Utah, 2:18.54
2. (tie) Kalle Palander, Finland, and Fredrik Nyberg, Sweden, 2:18.57
4. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 2:18.58
5. David Simoncelli, Italy, 2:18.64
13. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif., 2:19.25
Did not quaalify for 2nd run:
Chip Knight, Stowe, Vt.; Jimmy Cochran, Keene, N.H.
Erik Schlopy, Park City, Utah