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Ligety wins Alta Badia giant slalom by large margin

Associated Press

12/16/2012 9:50:44 AM

ALTA BADIA, Italy -- Ted Ligety cruised to his third giant slalom win of the season by a large margin Sunday after an opening run that left his rivals in awe, giving the U.S. Ski Team two wins in two days.

Ligety sliced his way down the classic Gran Risa course in a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 37.27 seconds. Defending overall World Cup winner Marcel Hirscher finished second, 2.04 seconds behind, and Thomas Fanara of France was third, 3.27 back.

"At the moment I'm happy to be two seconds behind Ted," Hirscher said. "There's not much more you can do to be competitive. We're all looking to Ted. It's perfect skiing. We're all studying his lines."

Ligety posted a 2.40-second advantage over Hirscher in the first run and just needed to make sure he made no major mistakes in the second leg. He had a slight problem midway down in the second run, putting his left hand down on the snow, but quickly regained control.

"The first run was confusing for me and confusing for a lot of other guys," Ligety said. "I had perfect grip whereas a lot of other guys were struggling with chatter. It was a bizarre margin for how it felt like, though. It didn't feel like anything super special. I've skied better in training."

Steven Nyman, another American, won the downhill in nearby Val Gardena on Saturday, making it the first time two American men won races on consecutive days since Marco Sullivan and Bode Miller achieved the feat in Chamonix, France, in January 2008.

Ligety also won the first two GS races this season by large margins, finishing 2.75 ahead in Soelden, Austria, and 1.76 in front in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark set the record for margin of victory at 4.06 in 1978-79.

"Maybe the Stenmark record was in the back of my mind, but really I was just trying to go hard and make it to the bottom," Ligety said of his second leg, when he was sixth fastest. "I definitely made some big mistakes, so I changed the tactics up a bit and I was happy to make it down. A couple times I had my elbows on the snow."

Ligety's first run drew immediate praise from his rivals on social media.

Overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal tweeted: "Ted Ligety's GS skiing (is) unreal at the moment!!!"

Swedish downhiller Hans Olsson wrote: "Just in: Marvel pictures are going to make a new movie about a superhero! Its not The hulk, Spiderman or Batman! Its about Ted Ligety!"

Nyman asked, "Best skiing........ever?"

Both runs were held in perfect conditions, with clear skies and the temperature comfortably below freezing to make for optimal snow conditions.

Ligety also won this race -- considered one of the toughest GS events on the circuit -- two seasons ago. He was fired up after finishing third in the GS in Val d'Isere, France, last weekend.

With Svindal finishing ninth, Ligety narrowed the gap behind the Norwegian in the standings. Svindal now has 614 points, Ligety is next with 508 and Hirscher is third with 460.

Defending champion Massimiliano Blardone of Italy lost control when his skis touched toward the end of his run after posting fast times at each checkpoint. Blardone was aiming to match Alberto Tomba's record of four wins on the Gran Risa. The way Ligety is skiing, though, the American may reach Tomba first.

It was the 14th win of Ligety's World Cup career, all in giant slalom. The Salt Lake City, Utah, native also won gold in combined at the 2006 Turin Olympics and another gold in GS at the 2011 world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Only Bode Miller (33) and Phil Mahre (27) have more World Cup wins among American men.

Miller, who won on the Gran Risa in 2002, is still recovering from left knee surgery and has not begun his season yet.

Next up on the men's circuit is a slalom in the Trentino resort of Madonna Di Campiglio, which hasn't hosted a World Cup race since Italy's Giorgio Rocca won seven years ago.