Ligety takes fifth, Shiffrin second in Soelden
Four-time Soelden winner Ted Ligety of Park City returned from injury to take fifth place at the Audi FIS Ski World Cup opener giant slalom in Soelden, Austria on Oct. 23.
Alexis Pinturault of France was unstoppable, never giving up his lead to win by .70 seconds. Austrian Marcel Hirscher threw down a spectacular second run and grabbed second, even after hipping out. Felix Neureuther of Germany was third.
The track was perfect in the morning with hero snow and good visibility. However, it began to cloud over during second run, hinting of an impending storm. But it didn’t affect Ligety, who loved the turny second run set and got lucky with light. Starting in the middle of the pack after finishing 14th in the first run, he was a little behind the clock on the top section, but nailed the transition to the flatter section to generate speed to the finish. He came down in the lead and held on to take fifth overall.
It was Ligety’s first race after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his right knee last season. Ligety has been the king of Soelden in the past, with four wins and seven podiums in the 10 times he’s raced the hill.
“I’m pretty happy with fifth place for my first race back,” said Ligety, who was the defending champion. “I haven’t had any speed in training, so it’s the first step back. I was attacking a little more (in the) second run. I was a little lucky with the light, so that helped me more than some other guys. I’m happy to get fifth place. It’s a good first start.”
Ligety added that he feels strong and will be training hard until his next race — the super G in Lake Louise on Nov. 23.
“I feel good,” Ligety said. “My body feels fine. I just don’t have the high-intensity, high-speed miles in yet. I need to get there.”
Tim Jitloff (Reno, Nev.) was the only other U.S. man to qualify for second run, but he went down on his hip on the pitch and did not finish. David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, Colo.), Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starksboro, Vt.), Brennan Rubie (Salt Lake City), Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.) and Kieffer Christianson (Anchorage, Alaska) did not qualify for a second run.
Next up, the men head to Levi, Finland for a slalom on Nov. 13.
Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, Colo.) kicked off the season with a bang, taking second place at the Audi FIS Ski World Cup giant slalom in Soelden. Lara Gut of Switzerland dominated the race, winning by 1.44 seconds.
It was a bluebird day with grippy snow, and Gut — last season’s overall World Cup winner — took advantage of the conditions. Shiffrin looked strong after starting 16th in the first run, but couldn’t keep up with Gut’s flawless performance. Gut led Shiffrin by 1.42 seconds after the first run and, while Shiffrin stayed on her heels in the second run, the lead was too great. Behind Shiffrin was Marta Bassino of Italy, who stepped on her first World Cup podium in third place.
“Lara’s performance was really impressive,” Shiffrin said after the race. “I know that I had really, really good preparation coming into this race. I felt good about where my skiing was, so when she comes down and she’s that far ahead and taking every gate like it’s the last gate she’s ever going to ski, it’s really cool to see. But I’m gunning for the rest of the races.”
Shiffrin was not shy about her discussing her goals for giant slalom this season, highlighting the upcoming Killington World Cup and stating that she’s hunting for more GS podiums. “Right now, my focus is the slalom globe and GS globe,” Shiffrin said. “I really, really want to win GS races, even more than I want to win the overall globe.”
The women have a break before heading to Levi, Finland, on Nov. 12 for a slalom and then come back to the U.S. for the Killington World Cup.
Steele DeWald has his life in Park City down to a routine. After some strange encounters in his 20s, he’s OK with the mundane.