Homegrown racer hits the podium
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. Park City’s World Cup whiz Ted Ligety went from the outhouse to the penthouse over the weekend at the VISA Birds of Prey races.
OUTHOUSE – Saturday, Ligety looked like he’d exploded, doing a prat-fall during the giant slalom won by Bode Miller with Daron Rahlves second and fellow Parkite Erik Schlopy fourth despite breaking his left hand in the first run and skiing with his pole taped to his hand for the snowy second run.
PENTHOUSE – Sunday, Ligety, in just his second season on the World Cup tour, climbed onto his first podium (i.e., top three) with one of his patented laser-beam second runs in slalom. He was 11th in the first run and, despite single-digit c-c-c-cold and blowing snow and gusting winds, he tore through the second run and vaulted into third place behind Italian Giorgio Rocca and Frenchman Stephane Tissot, whose previous best World Cup result was the 10th he hung-up at Beaver Creek a year ago.
"I try to ski pretty relaxed," Ligety said after the first slalom of the new season. "First run, I feel I should’ve given her a little harder, and second run I let it go and that’s how I like to ski. It’s a lot more fun when you’re letting it hang out there and you can really feel your skis bite…
"I just try to give her hard as I can every run, and I did it [Saturday], too, and I kinda imploded a little bit," he said with a laugh, "so it works and it doesn’t work sometimes."
Mike Morin, the U.S. men’s slalom and GS head coach, was stoked with Ligety’s showing but disappointed with the rest of the Yanks (Miller skied out in the tricky conditions, then hiked a couple of gates to finish the run, claiming he was using it as a training run after not skiing SL for about three weeks).
"For me, it was very important to see Ted’s second run lay it on the line in those variable conditions. It’s real easy to lay it on the line on a perfect hill with a consistent surface and every turn is the same. Then, you know what to do.
"But when it’s always changing like that, then it’s hard to take risks. It’s sweet to see a like Ted take some risks in these conditions," Morin said.
Ligety said he’s made huge strides since a year ago when he was 15th in the slalom at Beaver Creek and then kept punching his way to the front in slalom, impressing other coaches with his full-on style of attacking slalom runs. This winter, Ligety bagged a top-10 in the opening race, a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria – his first points in GS.
"I’ve gained a lot of in my skiing," he told reporters. "Last year, I got 5th here amd it was a pretty good result for me and I was pretty pleased with it. And then all last year I consistently scored World Cup points in slalom and I gained confidence and got into the first 30 group, which helped a lot.
"It’s a big advantage for me starting 27th instead of the late 30s and 40s."
Saturday’s GS was an inspiration, Ligety said. And when Miller sputtered in the first run, "I kinda felt I was able to carry it onto another podium."
No one was betting it would be his last top-3 finish. As Head Coach Phil McNichol always says about Ligety, "He’s full throttle all the time."
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