Ligety gets giant slalom revenge
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – American Ted Ligety got redemption Tuesday with a win in the Birds of Prey giant slalom just two days after coming in second place in Sunday’s Birds of Prey giant slalom, earning his 10th career World Cup victory.
Ligety, who won the giant slalom here in 2010, finished his first run Tuesday 0.14 seconds behind the leader, France’s Alexis Pinturault. Ligety went into the second run in fourth place, knowing he had to charge it in order to have a chance at the win.
Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who won Sunday’s giant slalom, came in second at the end of the second run, with Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud finishing third.
Hirscher, 22, called it on Sunday when he said at the winners’ press conference that he thought Ligety would be back for Tuesday’s race. By the looks of Ligety’s second run, he was more than back.
Ligety’s win marks the 10th podium finish, including seven wins, for the U.S. men’s and women’s ski teams this season.
Ligety, 27, felt a confidence in the snow Tuesday that he didn’t feel Sunday, which gave him the ability to crush his second run.
“I was definitely pushing as hard as I could, and I was definitely a lot more aggressive that run than any of the runs that I’ve taken here so far,” Ligety said after his win Tuesday. “I felt like I kind of figured out the snow a little bit better and was able to kind of trust what the skis and what everything was going to do a little better, so I was just pushing super hard. But if I did that run several times, I don’t know if I would make it to the finish line with a high percentage.”
Taking risks is what ski racing is all about, especially with a field of competitors like this. Ligety said he bobbled here and there, but that he felt he made few mistakes in that second run.
Jansrud, 26, said he felt good about his second run until he saw Ligety come down and beat him by 0.78 seconds.
After the first run, Jansrud was down half a second, which might not have been hard to make up if the competitors were different, he said.
“You know, half a second is not impossible, but when you have these guys ahead of you, it’s a little bit more difficult,” Jansrud said. “I gave it all I had. I did a little bit of mistake in the second run as well, up top, but I think it would be hard to beat those guys anyway today, especially [Ligety].”
Hirscher was nothing but complimentary toward Ligety, too, at Tuesday’s winners’ press conference. He was proud to be on the podium with Ligety.
“It’s [an] amazing feeling because [Ligety] is Mr. GS, so I’m pretty proud of that and hopefully it’s going on the whole season,” Hirscher said of his ability to remain competitive with Ligety.
Hirscher said Ligety’s style is very different than his own. Ligety is “never drifting,” Hirscher said, making every turn on the edges of his skis.
For Hirscher, who had a season-ending injury last year, two Birds of Prey podiums in two days is just spectacular.
“It’s an amazing feeling – I forgot nearly everything that happened last year in February,” he said. “It’s always the same if you are on top, you forgot how hard you work, what you do every day.”
One thing none of these podium finishers is going to forget anytime soon is that the competition on the World Cup circuit is fierce. Ligety knows that Hirscher, who is five years younger, is going to remain a force in giant slalom for years to come.
“That’s definitely something that’s going to make me push hard in the future, and yeah, I’m just hoping he doesn’t get that mental ability and that race speed too soon,” Ligety said.
Ligety knows he doesn’t like finishing second to Hirscher, or anybody else for that matter.
“I always feel a little bit anxious and a little bit nervous on GS days just because the level I’m skiing makes you a little more anxious because you expect to win, you expect to be on the podium,” Ligety said. “Anything besides that is going to be disappointing, so there’s that added pressure.
And while the pressure was lifted briefly after Tuesday’s win – Ligety was all smiles – he’s just two days away from feeling that race pressure again.
He feels like he’s a contender for the podium in Thursday’s slalom, something he hasn’t felt in years past.
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