Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In super combined, Ligety makes it 20 World Cup wins

First Lauberhorn race at Wengen

Express Staff Writer

Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller celebrates his second-place giant slalom finish at the 2013 Birds of Prey FIS World Cup in Beaver Creek, Co. Dec. 8. U.S. Ski Team photo by Grafton Smith

     Ted Ligety, America’s best alpine ski racer on the men’s side, had been having a rough patch in Audi FIS Alpine World Cup technical events prior to Friday’s super combined at Wengen, Switz.

     But 29-year-old Ligety put together a winning super combined effort in the first event of the 58th Lauberhorn weekend in Wengen that also features downhill Saturday and slalom Sunday.

     Four-time World Cup giant slalom king Ligety, of Park City, Utah, captured the 20th Audi FIS Alpine World Cup victory of his career Friday with a stunning super combined victory at the Swiss resort, according to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) News Bureau.

     Ligety was the 2006 Olympic gold medalist in combined and is the reigning world champion in super combined, but until Friday had not won a World Cup race in any discipline other than giant slalom.

     To make Ligety’s third World Cup win of the 2013-14 season more memorable, the race was run in a reverse format. Overnight snow forced the jury to flip the race format with the slalom staged before the downhill.

     Ligety, who ran bib No. 1, was second after the slalom, 1.22 seconds behind Alexis Pinturault of France. Ligety then finished 13th in the downhill to overtake Pinturault for his 20th World Cup win.

     Bode Miller, 36, of Franconia, N.H. finished ninth and Jared Goldberg, 22, of Holladay, Utah was 20th, for his first World Cup points.

     Ligety improved his ranking to 19th on the all-time World Cup men’s victory list behind overall leader Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden (86 wins from 1973-89, 46 GS, 40 SL). Ligety is the third-ranked American on the list, behind Miller (33 wins for 7th place) and 1975-84 competitor Phil Mahre (27 wins for 9th place, 7 GS, 9 SL, 11 combined).

     It was Ligety's third World Cup win of the season and bumped him back into third in the overall World Cup standings with 433 points.

     Another super combined will be staged Friday, Jan. 24 at Kitzbuehel, Aust. to open the 2014 Hahnenkamm weekend.

     In the USSA press release, Ligety said, “It’s nice to win a super combined finally. I’ve only done so in big events, which is a nice thing to do, but it would have been good to win a World Cup before now. To get this win is a nice confidence booster and feels really good because January has been a rough month for me. It’s nice that I can turn the corner on that one.

     “There was a lot of snowfall, but they groomed the track so it was not the greatest snow on the downhill, but I feel lucky that we had good light. In downhill if I don't feel confident enough to go hard I let myself go slow so I could see where I was going. 

     “I think in a way I was lucky, especially in the morning running first because I got a super smooth course and that helped me to relax and stay enough ahead of the downhill guys despite not skiing that fantastic. I feel lucky that I could nab Alexis on this one because he is one of the best competitors out there.”

     The Wengen weekend included Saturday’s downhill and Sunday’s slalom.

     On Saturday, Olympic gold medalist Miller finished fifth, a mere .35 behind winner Patrick Kueng of Switzerland in a wind-shortened running of the 84th Lauberhorn downhill.

     The race start was lowered as high winds ravaged the upper half of the fabled course, cutting over a full minute from the normal leg burning run time of the longest Audi FIS Alpine World Cup on tour. Yet the shortened course became rutted and bumpy through the thin sections early in the race to make it no less a leg burner than the full course. 

     Miller navigated the turny upper part of the sprint course flawlessly, then made a small mistake just above the finish to drop out of podium contention. Audi Birds of Prey super G winner Kueng won his home race with a time of 1:32.66 for his first downhill career win. 

     Goldberg took advantage of the rugged and technical bottom half to storm to 12th from the 40th start position.

     Then, on Sunday, Olympic super combined champion Miller made a statement toward defending his gold medal with 26th place in the Wengen slalom for his first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup points in the discipline since 2011. Alexis Pinturault of France bested German Felix Neureuther for the win as first run leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria dropped to third.

     Warm temperatures caused the classic Lauberhorn race hill to deteriorate rapidly for both runs.

     The men's tour now moves to storied Kitzbuehel, Austria for the 74th Hahnenkamm races. The program features super combined, downhill and slalom Jan. 24-26. The U.S. Alpine Ski Team will nominate its 2014 Olympic Winter Games athletes following the slalom on Jan. 26.

     In the World Cup overall standings,

     Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, 31, with 25 career wins, added 82 points at Wengen to his tour-leading overall total. He now has 757 points. Second place with 735 points belongs to two-time defending overall king Marcel Hirscher, 24, of Austria, who has 22 career wins (12 SL, 9 GS).

     Sunday’s slalom winner Pinturault is third with 506 points and Ligety fourth with 433. Miller is eighth with 309 points.


Snowstorm cancels Cortina women’s races

     A heavy snowstorm continued to blanket the 1956 Olympic Village Sunday canceling an Audi FIS Alpine World Cup women's downhill for the second straight day on Sunday, Jan. 19.

     The storm, which began Friday morning, nixed the final downhill training day and continued through the night forcing the jury to bump Saturday's race to Sunday and eventually cancel the entire race program.

     The races will be made up on Jan. 23-24 with super giant slalom followed by downhill. Racing then continues Jan. 25-26 in Cortina with the rescheduled races from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany with downhill followed by super G.

     Downhill training is Wednesday, Jan. 22, followed by SG on Thursday, downhill races on Friday and Saturday, and SG on Sunday.

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