Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

A hard-earned day of firsts for Ligety

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — He hoisted the white skis that had just carried him to victory high over his head, then spread his arms wide.

The celebratory "V" he inadvertently formed nicely encapsulated Ted Ligety's historic day.

The 29-year-old American Alpine skier, taking advantage of the perfect conditions these Games had lacked until Wednesday, captured the gold medal in his pet discipline, the giant slalom.

In doing so, Ligety became the first American to win the event, which demands speed and technical savvy, and the first male U.S skier to earn more than one Olympic gold. Bode Miller, Phil Mahre, Tommy Moe and Bill Johnson have one each.

Andrea Mead Lawrence won two women's events at Oslo, Norway, in 1952.

"This is my first gold medal since 2006 (in the combined)," said Ligety, "but it was easier back then. I was only 21, and I didn't have all these struggles."

He was referring to his subpar performances in the super-combined (12th) and super-G (14th) in these Games, failures he blamed in part on slushy conditions at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.

"The combined definitely was disappointing, mostly because I could have skied a lot faster," Ligety said. "In the super-G I skied great, but I made one big mistake."

He made none Wednesday, building a first-run lead of nearly a second. He pulled back slightly in his second trip down the hill, finishing with a combined time of 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds.

"If I hadn't had that buffer, it would have been tough to really throw it down as hard as you possibly could," Ligety said. "I felt like maybe I backed off in some places too much. But I did what I knew I needed to do."

His time was 0.48 better than silver medalist Steve Missillier of France (2:45.77). France's Alexis Pinturault took the bronze.

Despite his problems at these Games, Ligety's victory was no surprise. He was the World Cup giant-slalom leader this season and its 2013 world champion.

In 2006, the relatively unknown Ligety came out of nowhere to win the combine. Four years later, with a higher profile and higher expectations, he was shut out.

"I've been waiting to win this medal for my whole life," Ligety said.

Miller done: Miller, 36, will skip the last event on the schedule, the slalom, after tweaking his surgically repaired left knee while finishing 20th in the giant slalom. That means his Olympic career is most likely over. He said on Twitter: "I'm bummed I'm out for the slalom, I wanted a miracle. Thank you all for the amazing support, it's been incredible."

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