Ted Liegety races to fifth in super-combined
The Associated Press
WENGEN, Switzerland — Ending a dispiriting four-year victory drought, Carlo Janka won a World Cup super-combined event Friday in front of his home Swiss crowd.
The former Olympic, world and overall World Cup champion easily defended his first-run downhill lead in the afternoon slalom to beat Victor Muffat-Jeandat of France by 1.31 seconds.
American Ted Ligety finished fifth, 1.64 back, one month before defending his world championships gold medal in super-combined at Beaver Creek.
Janka punched the air with his raised right fist on crossing the finish line — a rare show of delight for a skier noted for keeping his emotions in check.
“It’s a very special feeling,” said Janka, whose 88-race winless run on the World Cup started when he was one of the biggest stars of alpine skiing. “I could handle the difficult situations better and better in this time.”
Ivica Kostelic of Croatia was third, trailing 1.38 behind Janka’s combined two-run time of 2 minutes, 29.31 seconds.
Janka put himself into the picture for that Feb. 8 medal race at a venue where he once swept a three-race World Cup weekend meeting.
His 10th career World Cup win Friday was his first since a giant slalom at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, in March 2011 when he was one of few racers who could rival Ligety in the American’s specialist event.
Indeed, Janka cited measuring himself against a dominant Ligety — trailing by almost eight seconds in the first run at Alta Badia, Italy, in December 2012 — as a low point in his struggles.
“Now my confidence and my skiing (are) on the way back,” the 28-year-old Janka said.
If his comeback performance surprised some, the venue did not. Janka’s only podium finish in his barren spell was a third in this race two years ago. He has also won the classic Wengen downhill and a super-combined in previous seasons here.
“When I was going through my hard time it still was a good place,” said Janka, describing a course circled by the Jungfrau and Eiger mountains as “magical.”
Janka shaped as a star of the sport in a stellar 14-month spell starting at the 2009 world championships in Val d’Isere, France, where he won giant slalom gold.
He followed up the next season by his weekend hat-trick at Beaver Creek, winning the Wengen downhill, taking gold in GS at the Vancouver Olympics and clinching the first overall World Cup title for a Swiss racer in 18 years.
Janka will start among the favorites for the classic Lauberhorn downhill Sunday, along with Olympic champion Matthias Mayer of Austria and World Cup downhill standings leader Kjetil Jansrud of Norway.
Both Muffat-Jeandat, who earned his first career podium finish, and Kostelic paid tribute to the victims of terrorist attacks in France last week.
Muffat-Jeandat had a “Je Suis Charlie” message on the front of his helmet, and veteran Kostelic slotted a pen under the strap of his goggles.
“I draw comics as well,” said Kostelic, “and I said to myself after those massacres, as soon as I get the chance to support those people in public I will do it.”