Ligety wins World Cup giant slalom |

Ligety wins World Cup giant slalom

Eric Willemsen
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ted Ligety, of the United States, celebrates after winning an alpine ski, men's World Cup giant slalom race, in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia ” A course set by his own coach and soft snow helped Ted Ligety become the first American to win a race on the men’s World Cup circuit this season.

The 24-year old Ligety won a giant slalom Saturday for his fourth career victory. He finished in a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 19.92 seconds to beat Didier Cuche of Switzerland by 0.19 seconds and Massimiliano Blardone of Italy by 0.34.

Ligety, the defending GS champion, had a near-flawless second run on the Podkoren course, which was set by United States head coach Sasha Rearick.

“It’s a fantastic hill, I like it here,” said Ligety, who also won in Kranjska Gora last year and whose four victories all came in GS. “My coach set the second run and it was just how I like it, you know I like those big sweeping turns. I had a couple of bobbles along the way, but I’m really happy.”

Ligety got slightly off the ideal line in the middle part of his second run, but quickly recovered and hardly lost any time.

“I was a little late coming over one of the rolls and got a little low,” he said. “But I didn’t panic and that was the big thing. I was lucky there wasn’t too much soft snow on the track. … It got really warm today but for some reason I seem to win when it gets warm. All my World Cup wins have come when it’s gone sludgy in the second run.”

Ligety’s win came just a week after he went out in a GS in Sestriere, Italy, which left him with only a theoretical chance of retaining the discipline title he won last season.

Rearick praised the 24-year-old American for refocussing so quickly after that disappointment.

“After last week’s performance to step up and win a race is amazing,” Rearick said. “Cuche is skiing really hot, so to go out and catch him took a lot of effort and a lot of risk.

“We set the second run really turny to try to give Ted an opportunity to shine at his skill, and he skied super.”

That he was the first American to post a win this season didn’t make Ligety particularly proud.

“That’s not a cool thing, it’s kind of bad that we hadn’t won yet,” he said. “Surprising that Bode (Miller) hasn’t won this year and then we also have Marco (Sullivan) and some fast guys on the speed side that could have won by now. But it’s not so easy, we are not Lindsey Vonn.”

Tim Jitloff was the only other American to qualify for the second run, but he went out after losing balance on a ski on the bumpy middle part of the course.

Defending overall champion Miller skipped the races in Slovenia as he extended his midseason break in the United States to rest and to recover from an ankle injury.

With just one giant slalom remaining at the season-ending races in Are, Sweden, Cuche leads the discipline standings with 414 points, 52 clear of Benjamin Raich of Austria and 73 more than Ligety.

If Cuche finishes fourth in Are, he will be assured of the GS crystal globe.

“I still have to push,” Cuche said. “Last year I blew a big lead in the super-G standings in the final race. That won’t happen again.”

Ligety, who won back-to-back giant slaloms at the end of last season, expects Cuche to earn the discipline title.

“Seventy-three points is a lot of points,” Ligety said. “I have to win and he (Cuche) will have to do pretty poorly so I don’t think that will happen. He is more determined this year and he knows he doesn’t want to blow like he did in the super-G last year.”

Ivica Kostelic of Croatia finished 1.76 back in 20th and stayed at the top of the overall standings with 813 points. Raich, who dropped from fourth to 15th after a disappointing second run, is second with 785 points, and Jean-Baptiste Grange of France is third with 775.

Cuche is fifth with 727 points and could become a strong contender to take the overall title from Miller as three speed races ” two downhills and a super G ” are scheduled for Kvitfjell, Norway, next week.

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