Ted Ligety handed the US team the boost they needed after losing star Lindsey Vonn to injury with a shock victory in the men’s super-G at the world championships yesterday.
Just a day after Vonn’s season was brought to a premature halt when she ruptured knee ligaments in a horror crash in the women’s super-G, Ligety’s perfect mix of accuracy and aggression saw him pip a handful of pre-race favorites.
The 28-year-old clocked 1 minute, 23.96 seconds down the 1.8km-long Planai course, with late French call-up Gauthier de Tessieres taking silver at 0.20 seconds and Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway claiming bronze, a further 0.02 seconds adrift.
“I’m really happy,” Ligety beamed, saying he had not dwelt on Vonn’s crash.
“You can’t let those races affect you. It’s too bad for Lindsey,” he said.
The result was “pretty crazy,” he said.
“I was trying not to slide any turns. I couldn’t really see the snow that well,” he said.
It was, on paper, a startling result for Ligety, a giant slalom specialist with not a single World Cup super-G victory to his name in 10 seasons on the global ski circuit.
His sole podium in the event came on the notorious Bellevarde piste in Val d’Isere in 2010.
However, the Planai course was not anywhere in the same category as that, although there was a tricky roll six gates from the end that ensured many skiers were “bumped” into losing valuable time by skiing wide on the next gate to compensate.
Ligety, with his familiar low, crouched racing position, mastered the slope magnificently as he touched speeds of 83kph and importantly maintained his control through the final, testing roll to give himself a clean line into the finish.
It bodes well for Ligety’s medal hopes in the giant slalom and combined events — the American is the reigning world champion in the former and 2006 Olympic gold medalist in the latter.
It was also some result for De Tessieres, called up to replace the injured Johan Clarey in the French team at the last moment.
“It’s difficult to anaylze,” De Tessieres said. “Five days ago they called me to say I was not qualified. Now I’m here. I’ve had no time to think. My coach told me it was destiny.”
Norwegian colossus Svindal saw his bid to add the world title to his Olympic crown slip away within sight of the finish, a horrendous error going wide into the final schuss losing him valuable time.
Svindal, who already has four gold medals to his name (2 super combined, giant slalom and downhill), started the race as outright favorite, having won three of the four super-G races on the World Cup tour this season, including the past two.
Defending world champion Christoph Innerhofer of Italy, who also won on the Planai slope in the World Cup last year, finished in seventh at 1:25.05, 1.09 seconds off the pace.