A sweeping day for U.S. skiing | AspenTimes.com

A sweeping day for U.S. skiing

Andrew Dampf
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ted Ligety, of the United States, holds the men's giant slalom title trophy as Lindsey Vonn stands beside him on the podium, at the alpine ski, World Cup finals, in Bormio, Italy, Friday, March 14, 2008. Lindsey Vonn won the overall World Cup to complete the first American sweep of the men's and women's titles in 25 years. Vonn secured the title Friday when she made sure of finishing in the top 15 in the slalom, the penultimate race of the season. (AP Photo/Armando Trovati)

BORMIO, Italy ” Lindsey Vonn raised her arms and hugged teammate Stacey Cook after completing the first American sweep of the overall World Cup titles in 25 years.

Bode Miller did his part a day earlier by winning his second overall crown. He and Vonn are the first Americans to win the overall in the same year since Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney in 1983.

“It’s just a big day for America,” Vonn said Friday.

Ted Ligety added to the moment by winning the season’s final giant slalom. He is the first American to capture the discipline title since Miller in 2004.

Vonn had the fastest run in the second leg of the slalom to finish 11th. She eliminated Maria Riesch, the only skier in contention for the overall, before the German had a chance to ski her second leg.

“It was special for me to wrap up the overall in slalom because I started as a slalom skier in Buck Hill, Minnesota,” said Vonn, who also won the downhill title this season.

Marlies Schild of Austria won the race to take the season’s slalom crown.

Vonn defeated Nicole Hosp of Austria by 208 points for the overall title.

“I just gave it everything I had, took a lot of risks, and it paid off,” she said. “It’s like winning an Olympic gold medal. I remember reading about the legends of skiing as a kid and now I’m one of them. I can’t believe it.”

McKinney praised the U.S. skiers and suggested that more challenges await.

“Just winning the overall is not an end-all,” she said during a conference call. “There’s always someone who’s a little better at something. As soon as you admire the turn behind you there’s one in front of you that will catch you off guard.”

Miller’s father, Woody, said his son was less distracted this season.

“A lot of his success has to do with his training before the season started,” the elder Miller said Friday. “He used to think he could stay up late at night and not have any negative effect, and as you get older that becomes more of a factor. He’s definitely more disciplined and focused and having a better time, too.”

Ligety moved from seventh to first in a blazing second run to beat Benjamin Raich of Austria, his nearest challenger for the giant slalom title. Ligety completed the two runs in 2 minutes, 18.04 seconds to beat Raich by 0.31 seconds.

“Second run, I knew I had to hammer it down and I took a lot of risks,” Ligety said. “I was pretty lucky to come through.”

Ligety, the 23-year-old Olympic combined champion, finished with 485 points in the giant slalom, 47 ahead of Raich. He said winning the giant slalom title was tougher than winning Olympic gold.

“To do it all season is sweet,” he said. “It’s cool to have the GS title, but it’s nothing in comparison to what (Miller and Vonn) have.”

Now Ligety is being groomed to compete for the overall title

“He was clearly the fastest skier this season,” U.S. men’s coach Phil McNichol said. “Now that he’s won his first cup, he can branch out and go for the overall. Ted showed all season how consistent he is, and in my opinion those are the characteristics of a champion.”

This season, Vonn learned to harness her raw speed.

Formerly known as Lindsey Kildow, she married former U.S. racer Thomas Vonn in September. She credits his full-time presence on the circuit for much of her success.

“I’ve made light years of progression this year in terms of being able to control myself and not get so emotional and so caught up in the points, and it’s all because of him helping me,” she said. “Now I know where to take risks and where not to. I’m more consistent.”

The 23-year-old skier crashed in training at the Turin Olympics in 2006 and missed the end of last season with a knee injury. She spent much of the offseason getting back in shape.

“I feel like the summer is where you can make up ground on people,” Vonn said. “If there’s some party going on, you can say, ‘Hey, I’m going to the gym.’

“Those are the decisions that make you stronger not only physically but mentally. I spent a lot of time in the gym, and I’m full of energy now. I could go race for a long time after this. I think that was the big difference this year.”

The 30-year-old Miller broke away from the U.S. team this season. After failing to medal at the Turin Olympics, where Miller drew more headlines for partying than skiing, he made some changes.

Along with personal coach John McBride, Miller hired former U.S. coaches Forest Carey and Mike Kenney, his uncle. And he quit drinking before the season.

“I think his uncle sort of said, ‘If we’re going to commit ourselves to you, we want you to commit yourself to us.’ That might have been what he needed ” someone that he was willing to listen to,” Woody Miller said. “I’ve in the past told him that it was going to catch up with him if he didn’t try to conserve his energy.

“I think he had a lot of mixed feelings,” Woody added. “The Olympics brought it to a head, but then it didn’t go away last year.”


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