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Ted Ligety wins World Cup GS opener

SOELDEN, Austria -- World champion Ted Ligety completed an American double at the season-opening World Cup weekend by winning Sunday's giant slalom, a day after Lindsey Vonn took the women's race for her first ever GS title.

"It's a pretty awesome start to the season," Ligety said. "For us both, to get the top step here is cool. ... I feel sorry for the other girls now Lindsey has started to win giant slaloms as well."

Bode Miller, who won the opener in 2003 and '04, took ninth for only his second top-10 finish in giant slalom since October 2008.

Ligety confirmed his status as the leading giant slalom skier by earning his first win on the Rettenbach glacier and his ninth overall, each of them in GS.

"Winning in Soelden was a big target," Ligety said. "I have been on the podium here so many times. We have trained a lot on the course, that's definitely an advantage."

Ligety, who is defending his third World Cup GS title this season, maintained his lead from the first run to finish in an aggregate 2 minutes, 22.00 seconds.

"You never know what's going to happen when you're finally having the first race of the year," Ligety said. "Especially here, where it's a difficult hill. It gets sunny in the second run and that's what makes it hard as it gets bumpier."

Alexis Pinturault of France took second, 0.29 behind Ligety. It was the second podium finish for the 20-year-old Pinturault, who won the world junior title in GS twice.

Austria's Philipp Schoerhofer was 0.51 back in third, followed by former overall champion Carlo Janka of Switzerland.

"I had nothing to lose and the course was great so I just went for it," said Pinturault, who beat Ligety to take second behind Janka in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, last season. "I am so excited that I took my chances so well."

Ligety put himself in contention with a strong start to his opening run.

"I had the top section pretty well figured out and then how to ski the next little pitch," Ligety said. "There is not a lot to this hill but that's definitely a good spot to make up time."

Overall World Cup champion Ivica Kostelic bounced back from a disappointing opening run to place fifth, while Switzerland's Didier Cuche, who was the Croat's main rival last season, failed to score points after missing a gate.

Austria's Benjamin Raich, who won the overall title in 2006, returned to the circuit after damaging his knee in a crash at the team event during February's world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

"I didn't have a bad feeling," said Raich, who finished 1.76 back in 19th place. "I slowed down on the steep part but that was what I had expected."

Also returning from injuries were Olympic downhill champion Didier Defago of Switzerland, who missed last season, and Austria's Marcel Hirscher, who had been out since breaking his left foot a week before the worlds.

Defago skied off course in his second run, but Hirscher geared up to share sixth with Thomas Fanara of France.

Canada's Robbie Dixon, who suffered a concussion in a crash in Bormio in December, and Jean-Philippe Roy, who sat out the second half of last season, also returned.

Dixon missed out on the second leg after he failed to finish his first run.

Switzerland's Daniel Albrecht was 3.57 off the lead and failed to qualify for the second run in his first race here since winning in 2008, three months before a horrifying crash in the Kitzbuehel downhill forced him out of World Cup skiing for almost two years.

The men's World Cup circuit continues with a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 13.