Ted Ligety’s streak ends
It was a heartbreaker for the American fans at Beaver Creek, Colorado, as expected winner Ted Ligety (Park City) fell on his first run and did not finish. However, Tim Jitloff (Reno, Nevada) took a solid top-15 finish in 14th place and David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, Colorado) skied from bib 51 to 16th place.
In a first run that had its fair share of crashes, Ligety — who had won the Beaver Creek GS five times in the previous five years — was skiing strong, leading at each interval until he uncharacteristically pinched off the line over Harrier Jump, booted out and slid out on his side, crashing through a gate and ending his day prematurely.
"The snow is super aggressive — more aggressive than yesterday. I wasn’t skiing good anywhere; I was trying to get a feeling for it," said Ligety, who said his leg was sore after crashing. "A lot of guys are having trouble with how much the snow transformed overnight to being so aggressive because it was so cold and clear. That’s catching a lot of guys off-guard and for sure caught me off-guard. It’s a bummer."
With Ligety and French aces Alexis Pinturault and Thomas Fanara out in the first run, it left room for Austrian Marcel Hirscher to redeem his World Championships GS second place to Ted Ligety’s gold at the same venue.
Hirscher crossed the line 0.98 seconds ahead of Frenchman Victor Muffat-Jeandet, with Norwegian wunderkind Henrik Kristoffersen rounding out the podium in third, 1.31 seconds behind.
It was the 15th time Hirscher stood atop a World Cup GS podium, surpassing Herman Maier and Benjamin Raich for the all-time GS win record for Austrian men. Hirscher now sits one victory shy of tying Annemarie Moser-Proell’s all-time Austrian record of 16 career GS wins.
When asked whether his approach changed at all after watching his two closest competitors in Ligety and Pinturault crash within sight of the finish, his Bode-esque answer offered insight into the competitive mindset of one of the most prolific technical skiers the sport has ever seen.
"You know me, I’m always skiing against the time, not against Ted, or Felix, or whoever else," he said. "I’m always searching for the perfect turns, and maybe I can be faster than the best time or as close as possible to the best time. In general, I’m happy with my skiing so far and hopefully I can bring this momentum back to Europe."
When speaking of his record-setting victory, Hirscher said he looked forward to climbing the all-time wins ladder, setting his sights toward the closest Austrian on the list, Benjamin Raich.
"Now we are getting closer to the records that are I think pretty heavy," he said. "It is great to be on top of both technical disciplines. It is really amazing and I’m looking forward to Benjamin Raich’s record (of 36 career World Cup wins to Hirscher’s 33). Hopefully I can catch that too in a couple of years."
For the Americans, Tim Jitloff and David Chodounsky both made it into the points, finishing in 14th and 16th place, respectively.
"It’s nice to always be in the points, but I’m looking for a little more than 14th place," Jitloff admitted. "I skied really good today, solid first run. I think I just could have cleaned it up a little on that first run. In the second run I felt like I skied really well. I was pushing it towards the bottom, had a mistake there on the final pitch. The snow was super, super aggressive. I’m a guy that likes to push hard on the ski, so that’s not necessarily my forte. I’ll do better at places like Alta Badia where it’s a little bit icy."
Chodounsky, who is known more for his slalom skills, was excited to start his World Cup season with some hard-earned GS points. "It’s been a long fall, a long prep season, it just feels great to be racing again," Chodounsky said. "To have it start this way, with a GS, I’m pretty psyched."
Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, New York) also skied out first run, while Tommy Ford (Bend, Oregon) and Michael Ankeny (Deephaven, Minnesota) did not qualify for a second run.
Ligety finished second in Saturday’s super G race in Beaver Creek, followed by Weibrecht in third.
The men’s tour now heads across the pond to Val d’Isere, France, for slalom and GS races Dec. 12-13.
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Park City, South Summit and North Summit continue to shine on the court while their respective girls tennis and soccer seasons have all come to an end.