Ligety grabs podium spot in slalom in Italy |

Ligety grabs podium spot in slalom in Italy

Paul Robbins, Special to the Record

Olympic champ Ted Ligety, having given himself an early Christmas present with his third podium of the season Monday, returns home this week to catch his breath and get some relaxation before wading back into the World Cup arena after the new year.

Already the men’s World Cup giant slalom leader, Ligety had one good run and one over-the-moon run in a slalom at Alta Badia, Italy. He was 12th in the first run and laid down a screaming run to move up nine spots in the final times.

"I can’t wait to get home," he said afterward. "It’ll be good, for sure, to have some down time."

The men’s World Cup tour wrapped up a busy weekend in Italy’s Dolomites with the slalom, which was won by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Grange. They ran super-G Friday and downhill Saturday in Val Gardena, Italy, before a GS Sunday in Alta Badia and then Grange’s sizzling performance.

The next men’s race is the annual downhill Dec. 29 in Bormio, Italy, the 2005 alpine World Championships venue where Bode Miller won the DH gold medal.

A recap:

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Monday (SL in Alta Badia) – Ligety was troubled by the fact he hadn’t finished the last three slaloms. He ended that dry spell with an exclamation point. Grange won in 1:36.12, laying down the fastest time on each run. Germany’s Felix Neureuther was second in 1:36.86 and Ligety had a two-run time of 1:37.52. Vermonter Jimmy Cochran, who has spent most of the last couple of summers in Park City, was eighth (1:38.49).

"It’s cool to be up on the podium with those guys," Ligety said, "because we’ve come up together. They’re good guys and it’s nice to share this success."

For Cochran, watching the three of them scorch the second slalom run was exciting. "Ted was skiing so fast…and so were the others.

"All three of them were on a different level today from all of us. It was impressive," according to Cochran.

Sunday (GS in Alta Badia) – Ligety was penalized because he was late for the public bib draw Saturday night. He was moved back to the 46th start spot. With his emotions on a lower simmer, he tore through the first run and was an eye-popping 10th.

On the second run, Ligety had the fastest time and jumped up five more places to finish fifth behind Kalle Palander of Finland. The winning two-run time was 2:30.92; Austrian Benni Raich, the World Cup leader, was second in 2:31.34.

Ligety’s time was 2:31.50 with Cochran 10th and Parkite Erik Schlopy 28th. Miller was victimized when one his bindings gave way and the ski flew off.

"On the second run I picked it up, for sure. The course held up great – they iced it some – and I could go," Ligety said. "It’s tough to battle back from that far out [running 46th] to start, but I went for it."

Saturday (DH in Val Gardena) – Michael Walchhofer of Austria won it in 1:56.70, just ahead of Swiss great Didier Cuche (1:56.88). Third place went to Scott Macartney, who claimed the second top-3 of his career (and his first in DH). Macartney’s time was 1:57.26 with Miller eighth.

Macartney was happy with the result, but the two-time Olympian from Dartmouth College noted, "I didn’t do anything amazing, just charged and had a mostly mistake-free run." Sometimes success can be that simple.

A delighted men’s speed Head Coach Chris Brigham said, "This is awesome." Scotty Mac’ has been paying his dues for a long time and this is a sweet payback for him."

Steven Nyman, a Park City Ski Team alum, won the 2006 downhill in Val Gardena, but he barely got started Saturday, crashing out of the start.

Friday (super G in Val Gardena) – Miller, who is training apart from the U.S. Ski Team this season, collected his first podium of the early season. He overtook Liechtensteiner Marco Buechel to take the lead at 1:36.64. But Cuche came down next and skied to the win with a time of 1:36.62.

At the usual post-race press conference, Miller said he felt in good shape and his skis were working well, but he hadn’t executed in previous races. He also wasn’t holding back, he said, adding, "I’m always attacking, no matter what the course is."

Four U.S. men broke into the top 30. After Miller, Macartney was 23rd with Park City’s T.J. Lanning 26th and Marco Sullivan 27th.