Bode Miller, who provided Ligety with
a course report, has more good words
for his teammate.
“It really is tragic,” Fill said. “I just didn’t have the strength for the races anymore. ... He taught me how to
ski and was always there when I was racing. ... Now he is no longer with me and I’ve been missing him
a great deal. The season is not so important to me. The slalom [leg of the combined] was the last time
I was going to compete and I gave it my best shot and tried to grab a medal for my dad, and I hope this
will make him happier, and better, too.”
Sometimes even World Championship medals take a back seat.
Men’s Giant Slalom, Feb. 18
Ted Ligety got more than a back seat — he got a whole car, winning a new Audi by picking the right
slip of paper out of a champions’ prize grab. But to qualify for the chance to win the car, he first had
to win the giant slalom title.
And he did. The GS, held back at the Kandahar track, saw Ligety achieve a hard-fought win on a tough
track in questionable conditions.
American alpine world championship gold medals are a rare thing. Ligety’s was just the 15th in history.
Billy Kidd won the first, in combined, at Val Gardena in 1970, back before he wore a cowboy hat.
They are even more rare in GS: Steve Mahre in ‘82, Diann Roffe in ‘85 and Bode Miller in 2003 are the
other Americans to win in the discipline considered by many to be the foundation of all alpine racing.
Miller can claim a small piece of this one, too. His course report helped Ted to the win, but the heart of
it was Ligety’s skill, confidence, and sheer determination. It was a championship performance in every
sense of the word.
It took near-perfect execution to pull off. Fourth after the first run, Ligety said he wasn’t too concerned
about a quarter of a second disadvantage. Although his three World Cup GS wins in December had resulted from first-run wins, it had not been common in past years when he had delivered wins by coming
from behind. “It really doesn’t matter what position you’re in as long as you’re in touch,” said Ligety.
“Between runs we just talked, ‘Fight, fight, fight,’” said coach Sasha Rearick. “We’ve been here before,
we know what we have to do. When we saw the course today, we knew those were the type of turns
where Ted can dominate. This course set suited dynamic skiers. He should win, he knows he should
win and he’s a great skier, but to actually go out and execute on race day is a challenge. He is the best
in the world when he can go clean and deep. The main thing was for him to trust himself and go as hard
as he can.”
When Ligety ran in the second heat, he was looking at Cyprien Richard with the lead, who had come
from even further out than Ligety with the second-fastest run of the second heat. Richard had been seventh, 0.71 out. After Richard ran, Carlo Janka dumped all of his speed leading onto the flat and dropped
back, and Didier Cuche, skiing with his hand in a cast from a GS training crash, could not get into the
fight. He ran into some trouble on the steep and also dropped back. Ivica Kostelic, too, fought his way
down the pitch to finish well back. Neither Philipp Schoerghofer, the first-run runner-up, nor Svindal, the
first-run leader, could match Richard.
It was a difficult, turny GS course, which, as Rearick pointed out, was right up Ligety’s wheelhouse.