paid off,” was his assessment. “No one can come down there without making
Stunning in second — despite a slide on his hip 10 meters long — was Ligety,
a GS power with just a large handful of super G results to his World Cup re-
sume and no finish better than seventh. Apparently, he is branching out.
“There is no way to differentiate between the bumps and the terrain,” said
Ligety. “You can’t see anything. It never felt good the entire way down. …But
to be in second place now is pretty good.”
Coach Sasha Rearick fully agreed, and it was possible to hear the pride in his
voice. “This was a very tough race, one of the toughest I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“Ted is a phenomenal technical skier and he brought it out today.”
Miller tied Didier Cuche for ninth and Rearick called that “a good day,” not-
ing the U.S. men’s super G-win record-holder has been on his SG skis for “I
think five runs.”
Behind Walchhofer and Ligety, the Italians got third from Werner Heel.
Janka again failed to finish and Didier Cuche, with two wins and a second
already this season, sustained (while freeskiing) a fractured rib he would try
to ignore. Janka still held the overall lead, and the Swiss the Nations Cup, but
both margins had drawn small.
The GS tossed both those gaps over to the Austrian side.
Hirscher collected his first Cup win; he was perhaps a bit oblivious to the
pressure he should have felt after leading the first run. “I was nervous,” he
said. But he put it all on the line after hearing that Italian Massimiliano Blar-
done had taken the lead. “I just told myself, ‘Go for it, boy’.” And Hirscher
threw himself down the course. Although he said he ran out of gas at the end
of the course, he got by Blardone by two 10ths and became the youngest man
to win a World Cup GS in Hirscher’s lifetime — Pirmin Zurbriggen won at
19 in 1982.
The ever-steady Raich notched third for his 84th career World Cup podi-
Ligety, clearly looking for an opportunity to make a statement with a win
said, “I probably made two and a half seconds worth of mistakes” in the first
run alone. Despite winning the second heat, Ligety could rise no higher than
10h, a little more than one second out.
Miller skipped the race after coming down on a teammate’s foot while play-
ing volleyball and twisting his ankle. He couldn’t get into his ski boot because
of the swelling, so sat the event out.
Janka crashed, hurting his shoulder, and the World Cup overall lead shifted
over to Raich. And the Nations Cup shifted to his Austrian team.
Not pretty. Very significant.
Val Gardena and Alta Badia
The annual pre-Christmas run of Italian World Cup races, at Val Gardena
and Alta Badia, is a favorite of many a competitor, coach, tech rep and ski
racing journalist. It is also a particular favorite of Italian race fans, and
they rank among the best fans anywhere. Squadra Azzura knows when it is
home. Historically, Italian racers have found success on Italian ice. Gustavo
Thoeni won the 1975 World Cup title in a parallel slalom run-off at Val Gar-
dena. Kristian Ghedina shares the downhill win record at the site with four
and Alberto Tomba owns the GS honors with four wins at Alta Badia.
The French stop at Val d’Isere had gone OK, but the Italians were still seek-
ing their first win as they hopped over the border. Their fans, the same fan
base that gave us Tombamania, were looking for more.
In the first of two races at Val Gardena they got a taste, and a jolt. Werner
Heel — last season’s winner — had been expected to do the heavy lifting in
the speed events, but he and younger teammate Christoph Innerhofer both
American Ted Ligety suffered a 10-meter hip slide, but was
second in the super G at Val d’Isere.