For the Americans, giant slalom was best discipline at Birds of Prey races
BEAVER CREEK — Ted Ligety is skiing pain free, Tommy Ford notched his best World Cup finish and River Radamus punched above his weight class Sunday.
Indeed, the giant slalom proved to be the best discipline for American ski racers on their home snow at the 2017 FIS Birds of Prey World Cup races over the weekend.
While he was disappointed in his seventh-place finish, Ligety said he felt encouraged by the fact that his back and knee — both of which recently underwent surgery — were feeling good.
“I’m happy with how I’ve been skiing and how my body feels, so that’s good,” Ligety said. “But Beaver Creek has been a really good hill for me, so I expected more.”
In 12 years of giant slalom racing here, Ligety had not finished lower than fourth before Sunday, excluding the times he did not finish the race. He has won six times on the Birds of Prey track, including five consecutive races from 2011 to the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 2015.
“I love racing here,” Ligety said Sunday. “This is one of my favorite hills, and that’s a big reason why I’m disappointed with seventh place, it’s far and away the worst finish I’ve ever had in Beaver Creek GS. It’s definitely a hill where I expect myself to be in there more.”
Ligety couldn’t point to any one mistake, saying instead that he had multiple “slip ups” which added time to his score. The giant slalom combines times from two runs to determine the final standings; after the first run Ligety was sitting in second place.
“The first run didn’t feel great but I was in there and I had some good turns,” Ligety said. “The second run, some good turns here and there, but way too many little mistakes.”
FORD’S FINEST SO FAR
Ligety was encouraged by the performances of his teammates, saying Tommy Ford has been skiing well.
“Tommy has been one of the young guys on the team who … we’ve been expecting to have some good things,” Ligety said Sunday. “So that’s not a surprise at all to me that he can be right in there.”
Ford finished in 10th, his best World Cup finish to date. After skiing into 18th position in the first run, Ford said he could feel that the run had a lot of room for improvement. He was able to realize some of those improvement opportunities in the second run, laying down the ninth-fastest time among second-run competitors to find his first top-10 finish.
“That was much better skiing,” Ford said of his second run. “I was going down the hill from top to bottom. It was cool to so some good arcs.”
Among Ford’s sponsors is the Vail-based Steadman Clinic, which is currently in the process of making a documentary about the 28-year-old’s journey to the Olympics. Filmers with that team were with Ford in the starting gate Sunday. Ford said in order to make the Olympics, he must compete against members of his own team, as well as the rest of the world.
“There’s competition between us, just because the team sets up that way,” Ford said Sunday. “But we’re also rooting for each other.”
One of the U.S. Team members who seemed to be rooted for by everyone in attendance Sunday was River Radamus, who grew up in Eagle County and enjoyed the first World Cup start of his young career in the giant slalom.
And in spectacular fashion, the 19-year-old went from the 67th starting position to finish 38th, just .2 seconds away from qualifying in the top-30 and making it to the second run.
“I knew that I was performing about as good as I could have expected,” Radamus said following the run. “I didn’t know exactly what my time would be, but I was really happy with how I was skiing, for sure.”
With the final qualifiers finishing the first run in 1:19.91, Radamus’ time of 1:20.11 kept things exciting for fans all the way to the finish.
“As I was coming into (the final stretch) I could hear the course workers on the side cheering for me,” Radamus said. “I didn’t make it to the (second run) this time, which is a tall order from bib 67, but I’m really proud of where my result was. And being able to make that flip isn’t that out of reach to me, in my mind right now, so it was a really big confidence booster and it was an amazing experience.”
Radamus said it was a dream come true for him to have his first World Cup race take place in his home venue.
“The moment I made it into the finish, I heard the crowd roar in applause,” Radamus said. “It was just so cool, coming into my home crowd and having an exciting run, it was a great experience.”
While Radamus has always wanted his World Cup debut to take place in Beaver Creek, he said at this point in his career he really needs any World Cup experience he can get.
“I came into this race, first and foremost, just for experience and to get a sense of what a World Cup is like,” he said Sunday. “I think I’ve checked off a lot of boxes today — it’s just part of the process, and I’m trusting the process.”
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