TED LIGETY SHOCKS FIELD, SELF TO WIN WORLD CUP GS IN YONG PYONG


TED LIGETY SHOCKS FIELD, SELF TO WIN WORLD CUP GS IN YONG PYONGPYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Newly crowned Olympic combined champion Ted Ligety punched through the second run of a weather-delayed giant slalom Sunday to claim the first World Cup victory of his young career in a race where the top four skiers were separated by just four-hundredths of a second.

Ligety, who was eighth in the 48-gate first run, had a two-run time of 2 minutes, 18.54 seconds. Kalle Palander of Finland and Sweden’s Fredrik Nyberg tied for second in 2:18.57. World Cup leader Benjamin Raich of Austria finished fourth with a time of 2:18.58.

The 21-year-old Ligety, who reached his first World Cup podiums earlier this season in three slaloms, surprised himself by winning in giant slalom. He figured the upcoming slaloms – next Friday and Saturday on the 1998 Olympic course in Shiga Kogen, Japan – offered his best chance for more top threes.

“To be able to pull this off today in a GS is beyond words. It’s pretty crazy for me to do it in GS,” Ligety said. “I would have expected it in slalom but in GS is pretty stupid.”

“This surprised me more than the Olympics,” Ligety told The Associated Press. “I’ve been skiing pretty good GS lately but not like this.”

His goal this season, he said, had been to simply score points in giant slalom this season and earn slalom podiums “here and there.”

Sunday’s performance came somewhat out of the blue. Ligety’s best previous World Cup GS result was eighth, which came in the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria, last October. Ligety did, however, offer a glimpse at his GS potential in that race by winning the second run.

Sunday’s race also offered sweet redemption for Ligety, who missed the start in Saturday’s race, reportedly because he slept it. “I was pretty bummed yesterday, but today more than makes up for it because you never know,” Ligety said. “If I skied yesterday who knows what I would have done today.”

Ligety is now the fourth U.S. Ski Team racer to win this winter – following Daron Rahlves (three downhill victories), Bode Miller (a GS win) and Lindsey Kildow (two DH wins and a super G triumph).

Rahlves was the only other American to reach the second run on Sunday, finishing 13th in 2:19.25. Erik Schlopy, who broke his hand at Beaver Creek at the start of the season, dropped out of Sunday’s first run clutching his arm. A member of the American medical team said he had injured his thumb.

With temperatures in the mid-30s on a day where high winds forced a four-hour delay of the first run, the conditions were extremely difficult. “The second run, it was really tough. There were lots of holes and waves,” said the veteran Palander, who notched his best GS finish of the year. “It was the toughest GS of the year, I think. It was two totally different races, today and yesterday.”

It was the fourth time Palander had raced on the South Korean course, stretching back to 1998 when, at age 16, he qualified for a slalom at the site.

Ligety trained last summer with the U.S. downhill squad this summer to get more comfotable at speed, and to to prep himself for the combined event. He also spent more time working on his GS as he looked to become a solid four-event racer, like Norwegians Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Lasse Kjus, Ligety’s two all-round role models from his childhood.

“This year I had some opportunities for speed and more GS, and it’s paid off,” he said. “It’s made me a much better skier across the board.”

His gold-medal performance at the Olympics in combined “definitely gives me a lot of confidence in every race,” he explained. At the Olympics, he was skiing well in GS before going out, he said, “so I knew I was skiing fast.”

The men’s tour heads next to Japan for slaloms Friday and Saturday in Shiga Kogen before completing the season with the March 15-19 World Cup finals in Are, Sweden (host of the 2007 World Alpine Ski Championships). Then the U.S. Alpine Championships return to Sugarloaf, Maine, for the first time since 1997 with races March 25-30.

- USSA
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

Men’s giant slalom
Yong Pyong, Korea
March 5, 2006

1. Ted Ligety, USA 2:18.54
2. Fredrik Nyberg, SWE 2:18.57
2. Kalle Palander, FIN 2:18.57
4. Benjamin Raich, AUT 2:18.58
5. Davide Simoncelli, ITA 2:18.64
6. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 2:18.70
7. Thomas Grandi, CAN 2:P18.74
8. Marco Buechel, LIE 2:19.76
9. Francois Bourque, CAN 2:18.84
10. Christoph Gruber, AUT 2:19.04
11. Raphael Burtin, FRA 2:19.07
12. Steve Missillier, FRA 2:19.15
13. Daron Rahlves, USA 2:19.25
14. Joel Chenal, FRA 2:19.28
14. Massimiliano Blardone, ITA 2:19.28
16. Ales Gorza, SLO 2:19.29
17. Hannes Reichelt, AUT 2:19.31
18. Alberto Schieppati, ITA 2:19.32
19. Mario Matt, AUT 2:19.36
20. Arnold Rieder, ITA 2:19.46
21. Rainer Schoenfelder, AUT 2:19.48
22. Patrick Bechter, AUT 2:19.55
23. Marc Berthod, SUI 2:19.57
24. Hermann Maier, AUT 2:19.65
25. Felix Neureuther, GER 2:19.72
26. Didier Cuche, SUI 2:19.76
27. Didier Defago, SUI 2:19.87
28. Peter Fill, ITA 2:19.97
29. Frederic Covili, FRA 2:20.13
30. Stephan Goergl, AUT 2:21.07
Other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: James Cochran, Chip Knight, USA; Jean-Philippe Roy, Michael Janyk, CAN.
DNF 1st: Erik Schlopy, USA; Ryan Semple, CAN.

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

Equipment
Men’s GS, Yong Pyong, March 5, 2006

Skier, Skis/boots/bindings
1. Ligety, Volkl/Nordica/Marker
2. Nyberg, Fischer/Nordica/Fischer
2. Palander, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5. Simoncelli, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
6. Svindal, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
7. Grandi, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
8. Buechel, Head/Lange/Tyrolia
9. Bourque, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
10. Gruber, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon

Men’s giant slalom, Yong Pyong, South Korea, March 5, 2006 … It is the 31st event of the men’s 34 race, four combined World Cup schedule. … It is the seventh of eight scheduled giant slaloms. … There are six races left of the schedule: one GS, one DH, one SG and three slaloms. … It is the final race of two in South Korea.

It is the first career World Cup win for Ted Ligety and fourth podium in 18 completed World Cup races. … It is his third career scoring result in GS. … It is his second win of the season including the Olympic gold medal in combined Feb. 14. … He becomes the 32nd U.S. skier to win a World Cup race. … It is the 160th World Cup victory for the U.S. … It is the 10th U.S. win of the season, including two gold medals at the Olympics (Julia Mancuso in GS).

It is the 23rd career World Cup podium from Fredrik Nyberg. … the 19th in GS. … It is his second podium of the season, the other coming at Adelboden in GS Jan. 7th where he was second to Benjamin Raich. … He has been 2nd-5th-4th-2nd in his last four GS’s.

It is the 24th career World Cup podium for Kalle Palander. … ninth in GS. … sixth of the season. … third in GS of the season.

It is the 18th career top seven placing for Thomas Grandi and second in two days, having placed sixth March 4. … With three of those top seven placings, Yong Pyong now qualifies has one of Grandi’s best sites. … He has more top seven results only at Kranjska Gora, and has a better three results at Alta Badia (including a win last season). … It is the eighth best career GS result for Daron Rahlves. … His third best of the season.

Benjamin Raich (fourth in race) maintains the overall World Cup standings lead 1160-831 over Michael Walchhofer (did not qualify for a second run). … Hermann Maier (24th in race) is third at 750. …
Bode Miller (did not race) is the top American in fifth at 748. … Daron Rahlves (13th in race) is one point behind in sixth at 747. … Raich takes back the GS standings lead from Massimiliano Blardone (14th in race) 381-362. … Fredrik Nyberg sits third at 354. … Thomas Grandi (7th in race) is the top North American in sixth with 237pts. … Miller is top American in eighth at 198. … Winning margin is three-hundredths. … The top five skiers are within a tenth of a second. … Top 21 skiers are within the same second. … Top 29 within two seconds.

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