Ligety flying high at Visa Birds of Prey |

Ligety flying high at Visa Birds of Prey

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – Ted Ligety, still on the bounce-back from a month-old broken index finger, shifts into gate-running mode today as the VISA Birds of Prey Races move into the two final days of World Cup racing in the USA for this season.

The Olympic champion with the unflappable way and the relentless good manners topped U.S. entries Thursday as the VISA races got underway on the snowy – and surprisingly fast – hillside which has proven so friendly to the Yanks in recent years. He finished 10th in the super combined, a semi-new event which is a one-day scramble, mixing one run of downhill in the a.m. and a lone solo run after lunch.

(Results of Friday’s races — women in Lake Louise, Alberta for two DHs and a super-G — were unavailable at presstime.)

Ligety, taking advantage of a start in the top 30 of the combined downhill – and a spot-on course report from fellow Park City Ski Team grad Steve Nyman, who had started early, zipped into 17th place in the DH to set-up what he felt could be a dynamite slalom run. "It’s such a big difference, starting in the first 30 because the course hasn’t gotten chewed up and I have a chance for a better result," he explained.

Miller, although he scrubbed some speed at the bottom, scorched the downhill portion, posting a time that was 41-hundredths of a second ahead of Austrian Christoph Gruber…but that Good News was balanced about three and a half hours later when the former combined world champion blew off course perhaps eight or 10 gates into his run. He had a two-second lead to start, but lost that in a nanosecond when he went out. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, the super-G winner here a year ago, went on to pick up the third victory of his career with a time of 2:06.74 with Swiss Marc Berthod the "are you kidding me?" runner-up (2:06.93).

Ligety’s time was 2:08.54 with Nyman – pleased with 13th but a little bummed about not being top 10 (2:08.95). Marco Sullivan was 21st and Jimmy Cochran, who is starting to follow the Ligety business model (move beyond tech events, add some speed training, stick your nose into combined) was a weary but wide-smiling 27th.

After the downhill, Ligety broke into a smile when someone asked if his new Shred goggles – pink with a muted pink plaid strap – were faster than his old brand. "Absolutely – look at my time," he laughed. After his slalom run, where he can’t drive in a ski pole because of his damaged digit, he was less restrained.

"That was tough. I don’t know what happened for sure, but there was pain every single turn," he said.

A no-excuses athlete, he also was philosophical about the flat light after the sun dropped behind the mountain and the slalom skiers ran in shadows. "It’s definitely really, really dark up there, so, I mean, it’s hard to get on your game," Ligety said.

In a more whimsical moment – is this a new T. Ligety? (no, just a maturing one) – for the downhill, Ligety had taken a sharpie and scribbled in a Snidely Whiplash handle-bar moustache on the white tape he’d placed around his mouth to ward off the cold.

So, on the day after it was announced there would be no additional World Cup races in the USA because of overwhelming financial considerations that put an extra men’s and women’s super combined into Beaver Creek or Aspen, the U.S. men started climbing back from a weekend of frustration in the Canadian Rockies where Miller’s 14th in super-G Sunday was the high point.

Giant slalom today (Parkite Erik Schlopy gets into his first action of the young season) and slalom Sunday…and then the tour goes away for another year. World Championships are in February in Are, Sweden, and live timing is available for every race via with offering video streaming (check the Website for times).

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