Ted Ligety wins World Cup giant slalom

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. -- The way Ted Ligety carved into turns looked so easy. The way he glided in between sections of the steep course appeared so elegant.

Even when he's skiing on edge in a giant slalom race, pushing to the brink of his ability -- as he insisted he was doing Tuesday -- it hardly seemed that way.

No wonder some of his rivals have taken to calling him, "Mr. GS."

Ligety turned in a blazing second run in frigid conditions to capture a World Cup giant slalom race on a demanding Birds of Prey course. The three-time overall GS champion flew down the hill in a combined time of 2 minutes, 40.01 seconds to hold off Marcel Hirscher of Austria by 0.69 seconds. Kjetil Jansrud of Norway was third.

"I tried to do my best. I had no chance," Hirscher said. "Ted was unbreakable."

It was Hirscher who lit a fire under Ligety.

On Sunday, Hirscher knocked off Ligety in a giant slalom race on this course, finding superior speed where many others, including Ligety, couldn't.

So, Ligety went to the video and studied Hirscher's amazing run from the weekend and used it against him.

"I'm glad to come down and get some redemption," Ligety said. "(Hirscher) crushed me by quite a bit and a lot of other guys Sunday."

This time, it was Ligety's turn. He entered the final run trailing France's Alexis Pinturault by 0.14 seconds. But Ligety easily made up the time to win his 10th World Cup race. Pinturault made an early mistake and never recovered, settling for fourth.

"I was pushing super hard," Ligety said. "If I did that run several times, I don't know if I'd make it to the finish line with a high percentage."

At 27, Ligety is the undisputed king of the GS. But he has a couple of youngsters hot on his heels in Hirscher (22 years old) and Pinturault (20). They keep getting better with age, especially Pinturault, who Ligety said is bound to break through for his first win very soon, possibly even this season.

"It's just a matter of time," Ligety said. "That's definitely a good motivator for me, knowing there's somebody 7 years younger than me that probably has more raw speed than I do. That's something that's going to make me push hard in the future. I'm hoping (Pinturault) doesn't get that mental ability and race speed too soon."

Hirscher is already there.

His performance this week is evidence of that. Second after the first run, Hirscher may have even charged toward another win Tuesday, but he banged his hand on a gate and wasn't the same in his final trip through the course.

"I was a bit not that aggressive like in the first run," Hirscher said. "I'm pretty happy with my second place. For me, it's perfect to be here.

"It's an amazing feeling because (Ligety) is Mr. GS. Hopefully it's going on the whole season."

Just then, Jansrud playfully interrupted as the three sat at a table for a post-race news conference.

Something was lost in translation.

"You hope (Ligety) wins all races the whole season?" Jansrud asked.

Wide-eyed, Hirscher quickly amended his statement.

"Not that," he said. "Hopefully, I can beat him."

Maybe next season the field will have an even better chance to close the gap on Ligety. That's when the new rules over the shape of the GS skis take effect. Ligety has been frustrated with the International Ski Federation's decision to alter the hourglass shape.

Already so dominant in this discipline, he could lose some of his advantage. Although, he doesn't believe so.

"If the new skis happen, it's going to be less fun to ski. But I don't think I have a big disadvantage," Ligety said. "I think Hirscher and Pinturault have a much greater disadvantage than I do. Somebody like Aksel (Lund Svindal of Norway) has a bigger advantage on me.

"It's going to affect me less than some of the other guys -- guys that are smaller and springier. It's tough to say how it's going to play out."

Tim Jitloff had a fast run and momentarily held the lead before the top skiers came down the hill. He wound up 10th.

"That felt good," Jitloff said. "I know that when I can do what I want to do on my skis, I'm just as fast as the fastest guys out here. I was super motivated."

Bode Miller never found his groove on the course and was 29th, 3.58 seconds behind Ligety.

"Tough to find my speed," Miller said after his first run. "It's tough snow conditions. If you push harder, sometimes you go slower. It's so grippy and so aggressive that I was trying to be more gentle."

Miller skiing gently? That hardly ever happens. He usually adopts a go-for-broke approach on the slopes, punching the accelerator far more than tapping the brakes. But he's also still experimenting with his GS setup as he searches for just the right combination.

The grippy nature of the course baffled Miller on Sunday and again Tuesday.

"I'm obviously much better on the harder, more icy stuff," Miller said.

This race was moved to Beaver Creek because of a lack of snow in Val d'Isere, France. There's also a women's super-G on Wednesday -- a homecoming for Lindsey Vonn who lives in nearby Vail -- and a men's slalom on Thursday.

Vonn is looking forward to her first race on this difficult course and comes in full of confidence after winning two downhill races and a super-G at Lake Louise. Vonn has never won a World Cup event on U.S. slopes.

"I'm hoping to change that," said Vonn, who tried out the course Tuesday once the final run of men's giant slalom finished up. "I've always wanted to race here. This is finally my chance."