Ligety keeps title hopes alive with giant slalom win
Ted Ligety of the United States won the season's penultimate World Cup giant slalom Saturday to keep alive his hopes of retaining the discipline title for another year.
The GS champion in 2008, '10 and '11, Ligety trails leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria, who finished third, by 92 points with one race remaining — in Schladming, Austria next week.
With a victory worth 100 points, Ligety must win the final race and hope Hirscher doesn't score points.
"It's a lot to make up. I need Hirscher to do what I have done — I made some mistakes," Ligety said. "I scored 513 points. That's more than most people got a crystal globe for in the last couple of years. That's really a testament for Marcel and how well he is skiing."
Ligety added that "it's tough to lose a title when you score so many points but, at the same time, if the person who is winning has such a great season you have to take it with a smile."
Ligety built on his commanding first-run lead to finish in an aggregate time of two minutes, 22.47 seconds to beat second-place Alexis Pinturault of France by 1.61. Hirscher was 2.03 behind.
It was Ligety's 11th career win — all in GS — and his fourth victory on the Podkoren course to equal the record of Austria's Benjamin Raich on this hill.
Beat Feuz of Switzerland, who failed to qualify for the second run, remains in the overall lead with 1,250 points, 55 clear of Hirscher.
Defending champion Ivica Kostelic of Croatia earned 6 points for finishing 25th and now has 1,049 points.
"It's my biggest wish to win a globe," said Hirscher, who missed the final part of last season with a broken foot. "But before the season I never expected to have this wonderful season. It doesn't matter if I win one, two or three globes, or maybe no globe, it was a great season for me."
Kostelic struggled on his return after almost four weeks out because of knee surgery. The Croat complained about back problems which prevented him from fully attacking.
"My back hurt during warmups and my physiotherapist worked on me until the last minute before the start," Kostelic said after the first run. "If your knee is not OK, it can harm other parts of your body."
Kostelic seemed to hold back in his second run to avoid the risk of skiing out.
Feuz has been battling a left knee injury for weeks and will undergo surgery after the season. He said he didn't expect to score points.
"It was more of a practice run for me," Feuz said. "My knee was just fine during the race. I will take some rest now before downhill training [in Schladming, Austria] on Tuesday."
Ligety was in full control of the race after a blistering first run. In his final run, his lead at the second intermediate time even topped the 2-second mark.
"There is no such thing as a perfect run," Ligety said. "I definitely could have been faster but I could have been a lot slower too. I am pretty happy with coming down as clean as I was top to bottom."
The American won two of the first three GS races this season but lost ground to Hirscher in the next four outings before hitting back Saturday in convincing style, posting the fastest times in both runs.
"In the last couple of races, I didn't feel like having the right intensity." Ligety said. "In my first run I skied mad in a sense, I was just going as hard I could all the way down."
Ligety said he was not surprised by his leading margin.
"I've had races this year that I should have won by that much," Ligety said. "I've had runs where I put large margins on people but this is the first time I really had a good run top to bottom."
The second run was interrupted for over 20 minutes after Florian Eisath of Italy broke his left upper arm at a crash and had to be brought down the hill on a sled. Eisath was thrown off course and landed badly on his arm and shoulder before sliding into the safety nets.
A men's slalom on the same course is scheduled for Sunday.