Ted Ligety wins bronze in combined
On the coattails of a record-breaking crowd turnout for men’s downhill on Saturday, throngs of fans showed up again to Beaver Creek, Colorado, to cheer on the men’s World Championships combined athletes. Ted Ligety (Park City) attacked from the back — starting 29th for the second run — and grabbed an unlikely bronze medal. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won the combined gold medal, followed by Kjetil Jansrud of Norway.
The men’s combined at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships is a one-day event that includes the combined time of a morning downhill run with an afternoon slalom run.
The morning downhill proved to be dramatic, with Czech Republic’s Ondrej Bank taking a hard crash off the Red Tail jump. Bank lost a ski, crashed into a gate panel, hit his head on the ice-injected course, and slid unconsciously across the finish line. Medical staff treated Bank on the snow and then moved the athlete to Vail Valley Medical Center. It has been confirmed that Bank suffered a concussion, facial lacerations and a leg contusion.
Ligety — 2013’s world champion in men’s combined — was next in the start gate after Bank. Ligety stood for 17 minutes while Bank received attention. Not known as a downhill threat, Ligety’s mission was to ski as fast as possible in order to give himself an achievable time in the afternoon’s slalom. Ligety had a challenging downhill race and finished 3.03 seconds off the morning’s fastest time. His downhill effort seemed to put him out of the chance of winning a combined medal. Even he shook his head afterwards and said, "I skied horribly."
In addition to Ligety, four other American racers competed in Sunday’s combined event. The highest finishing American in downhill was 23-year-old Jared Goldberg (Holladay, Utah), a rising star in the U.S. Ski Team ranks. Goldberg took third overall in the downhill.
Rounding out the American effort in the downhill portion of the men’s combined were Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, New York) in eighth, Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah) in 12th, Tim Jitloff (Reno, Nevada) in 27th and Ligety in 29th.
However, there is always a big shuffle that takes place in the men’s combined, as athletes trade long downhill sticks for short slalom skis.
The first slalom skier out of the gate was Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, who is respected as a slalom and GS specialist. Hirscher was 3.16 seconds behind Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud’s fastest downhill time, and Hirscher skied straight and aggressively through the slalom course.
Ligety followed Hirscher out of the gate, skiing hard and snapping off turns. Towards the end of the track, however, a challenging fallaway gate got the best of Ligety, forcing him onto his skis tails and into soft snow on the side of the track. Ligety finished 0.30 off Hirscher’s combined time.
But racer after racer came down and no one could keep up with Hirscher and Ligety’s times. When Jansrud was set to race, running 30th, Ligety was already guaranteed a medal.
At the end of the day, Norway’s Jansrud and Ligety joined Austria’s Hirscher on the men’s combined podium. Jansrud’s incredible downhill time and respectable slalom race earned him a silver medal, and Ligety won bronze.
"This is definitely a surprise. After the downhill run, I thought there was no possibility of getting anywhere close to a medal," said Ligety. "Whenever you win a medal, it’s an awesome day."
The rest of the team was also stoked. "Good on Ted and good on America!" said Nyman. "Three medals so far. Performing on home snow is great. I think the crowd is loving it."
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