SOELDEN,AUSTRIA,25.OCT.15 - ALPINE SKIING - FIS World Cup season opening, Rettenbachferner, giant slalom, men. Image shows Ted Ligety (USA). Photo: GEPA pictures/ Christian Walgram

SOELDEN, Austria – A year ago on the Rettenbach glacier, Austrian Marcel Hirscher set the tone for his 2014-15 season of collecting small and large crystal globes by claiming a decisive victory in the giant slalom opener as Ted Ligety finished a disappointing 10th. If not for winning gold in the World Championships, Ligety would have written off the season as a failure.

But the tallies refresh anew every year in Soelden, and Ligety is back on top after claiming a nail-biting victory over Frenchman Thomas Fanara in second and Hirscher in third to usher in the 2015-16 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season.

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Mastering the lower flat by carrying speed off the pitch and then gliding through the final gates on the course was something Ligety learned from Swiss great Didier Cuche in 2009.

“That’s the most crucial part of this hill, that bottom flat because you can lose a little bit of time on the pitch as long as you can carry that speed across the flat,” said Ligety. “I learned my lesson the opposite way back in the day with Cuche – I had beat him by seven-tenths on the pitch and he crushed me by eight-tenths on the flat, and so learning from that and knowing that … that’s something I’ve been able to do over the last couple of years and it helps make up some time but at the same time you can’t lose too much on that pitch.”

With Ligety’s 24th career giant slalom victory, he officially passed Michael von Gruenigen (with whom he was tied heading into the race) on the all-time record board in second place for World Cup wins in the discipline behind Ingemar Stenmark’s 46. The American held a 0.17-second lead over Hirscher heading into an action-packed second run that kept fans on the edge of their seats.

A 24-year-old Austrian by the name of Roland Leitinger, who had only ever qualified for one other second run in his career, turned heads when he finished the first run in 26th from bib 39 and then held the lead in the second on the Rettenbach through 13 more challengers until Norwegian young gun Henrik Kristoffersen matched his time. The two were ultimately dethroned from the leader box by Alexis Pinturault, but then Felix Neureuther joined them in second place with a three-way tie. The trio ultimately finished sixth just behind Pinturault.

Pinturault’s teammate Fanara, sitting third after the first run, turned on the jets in the second and charged into the lead, besting Hirscher by a scant 0.02 seconds and guaranteeing his first career podium at Soelden.

“I told myself nothing is impossible, so you can do it. Just go fast and have fun, that’s it,” Fanara said about his mindset entering the second run. “It feels great – first time on the podium in Soelden. It’s never easy to be fast here in the first race. You don’t really know about your shape. Normally this slope is a little bit too flat for me but today it was OK, so that’s great, I am very happy about it. … There are three (French) guys in the top seven so for the training it’s very good to have these references. Today I’m the fastest French but next time you don’t know because these guys are really fast.”

During Ligety’s second run, his 0.33-second advantage over Fanara evaporated as he lost elevation in the middle of the pitch, and he was dead even with the Frenchman two splits from the end of the course. Working his magic on the lower flat, he miraculously made up 0.15 seconds by the time he crossed the finish line.

“It gets dark in the second run and there are some holes and it doesn’t feel good, but you just have to remember to try to keep yourself going down the hill and work for a little bit of speed when you can and try to survive in other places,” said Ligety. “I guess I found the right combination of that today.”

Before anyone feels sorry for the defending Soelden champion on his third-place result, Hirscher was quick to set fans straight.

“I’m super happy with (third) because the preparation this year has been totally weird. Sometimes I have skied really good training runs where I was maybe half a second in front of the other Austrians, but there have also been training where I was two seconds behind – for example – Roli Leitinger who skied in an amazing way today. Congrats for that!” admitted Hirscher. “So I was super nervous before the race today. But finally I’m super happy. A lot of pressure has gone away already, and I’m looking forward to a day off tomorrow.”

Tim Jitloff of the U.S. Ski Team was the only other North American to qualify for the second run. He finished the day in 17th, a career-best result for him at the venue with which he confessed he’s “never had a very good relationship.”

Both Ligety and Hirscher now shift their focus to the opening slalom race of the season in Levi, Finland, scheduled for Nov. 15.

View more photos from this race here.


The Scoop

By Hank McKee

1. Ligety, Head/Head/Head

2. Fanara, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer

3. Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic

4. Nani, Volkl/Tecnica/Marker

5. Pinturault, Head/Head/Head

6. Leitinger, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer

6. Kristoffersen, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol

6. Neureuther, Nordica/Nordica/Nordica

9. Faivre, Head/Head/Head

10. Muffat-Jeandet, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon

  • Men’s World Cup giant slalom, Soelden, Austria, Oct. 25, 2015. … It is the second race of the 2015-16 World Cup season and the first of 45 for men … the first of 10 men’s giant slaloms. … It is the 32nd World Cup race hosted by Soelden. … Marcel Hirscher won this race last season kicking off a World Cup championship season. … American Ted Ligety won three consecutive times at Soelden from 2011 through 2013. … Bode Miller won here in 2003 and 2004.
  • It is the 25th career World Cup win for Ted Ligety, his 24th in GS and his fourth at Soelden in the last five seasons. … It is the 288th U.S. win … the 65th in GS.
  • Thomas Fanara matches his career-best result. … It is the third time he has finished second in a World Cup race without recording a win. … It is his ninth podium placing … his first at Soelden where he placed fourth in 2012 and fifth in 2008.
  • It is the 73rd career World Cup podium for Marcel Hirscher … his 32nd in GS and his fourth at Soelden.
  • The top four finishers were within the same second … fifth was 2.01 out.
  • Tim Jitloff matches his 14th best career score. … It is his career-best result at Soelden.
  • France leads the men’s Nations Cup 184-148 over Austria. … Italy is tied with the U.S. in third with 114 points each.

Results

 1 3 534562LIGETY Ted1984USA 1:12.30 1:11.58 2:23.88 0.00
 2 5 191750FANARA Thomas1981FRA 1:12.63 1:11.40 2:24.03 +0.15 1.02
 3 1 53831HIRSCHER Marcel1989AUT 1:12.47 1:11.58 2:24.05 +0.17 1.16
 4 8 294890NANI Roberto1988ITA 1:12.93 1:12.85 2:25.78 +1.90 12.94
 5 4 194364PINTURAULT Alexis1991FRA 1:13.78 1:12.11 2:25.89 +2.01 13.69
 6 39 54031LEITINGER Roland1991AUT 1:15.81 1:10.88 2:26.69 +2.81 19.14
 6 14 422304KRISTOFFERSEN Henrik1994NOR 1:14.49 1:12.20 2:26.69 +2.81 19.14
 6 6 201702NEUREUTHER Felix1984GER 1:13.77 1:12.92 2:26.69 +2.81 19.14
 9 18 194495FAIVRE Mathieu1992FRA 1:14.44 1:12.37 2:26.81 +2.93 19.96
 10 7 193967MUFFAT-JEANDET Victor1989FRA 1:13.76 1:13.21 2:26.97 +3.09 21.05
 11 9 292967EISATH Florian1984ITA 1:15.02 1:12.05 2:27.07 +3.19 21.73
 12 23 380335ZUBCIC Filip1993CRO 1:14.74 1:12.42 2:27.16 +3.28 22.34
 13 21 990048BORSOTTI Giovanni1990ITA 1:14.52 1:12.74 2:27.26 +3.38 23.02
 14 15 51007SCHOERGHOFER Philipp1983AUT 1:14.45 1:12.94 2:27.39 +3.51 23.91
 15 28 511896MURISIER Justin1992SUI 1:16.00 1:11.47 2:27.47 +3.59 24.45
 16 31 50742REICHELT Hannes1980AUT 1:16.45 1:11.09 2:27.54 +3.66 24.93
 17 10 534959JITLOFF Tim1985USA 1:15.29 1:12.28 2:27.57 +3.69 25.13
 18 19 202437LUITZ Stefan1992GER 1:14.29 1:13.41 2:27.70 +3.82 26.02
 19 57 290095BALLERIN Andrea1989ITA 1:15.63 1:12.24 2:27.87 +3.99 27.18
 20 25 501017MYHRER Andre1983SWE 1:15.51 1:12.44 2:27.95 +4.07 27.72
 20 2 202462DOPFER Fritz1987GER 1:14.01 1:13.94 2:27.95 +4.07 27.72
 22 52 53889HIRSCHBUEHL Christian1990AUT 1:15.54 1:12.47 2:28.01 +4.13 28.13
 23 62 292491MOELGG Manfred1982ITA 1:15.28 1:12.74 2:28.02 +4.14 28.20
 24 17 421328SVINDAL Aksel Lund1982NOR 1:15.73 1:12.40 2:28.13 +4.25 28.95
 25 22 51159NOESIG Christoph1985AUT 1:16.26 1:11.98 2:28.24 +4.36 29.70
 25 16 421483JANSRUD Kjetil1985NOR 1:15.61 1:12.63 2:28.24 +4.36 29.70
 27 66 192506MISSILLIER Steve1984FRA 1:15.77 1:12.52 2:28.29 +4.41 30.04
 28 12 421669HAUGEN Leif Kristian1987NOR 1:14.98 1:13.35 2:28.33 +4.45 30.31
 29 34 700830ZAMPA Adam1990SVK 1:15.66 1:12.87 2:28.53 +4.65 31.67
 30 29 511741ZURBRIGGEN Elia1990SUI 1:16.57 1:12.04 2:28.61 +4.73 32.22
Did not qualify for 2nd run
 78 210040TUKHTAEV Kamiljon1997UZB
 77 690694KOVBASNYUK Ivan1993UKR
 75 380290SAMSAL Dalibor1985HUN
 74 660021DANILOCHKIN Yuri1991BLR
 73 680047BENIAIDZE Alex1991GEO
 72 491853DEL CAMPO Juan1994SPA
 67 380341ULLRICH Max1994CRO
 65 194935FAVROT Thibaut1994FRA
 63 6291430MAURBERGER Simon1995ITA
 59 53985MATHIS Marcel1991AUT
 55 194457GALEOTTI Greg1992FRA
 51 291318TONETTI Riccardo1989ITA
 50 53980KRIECHMAYR Vincent1991AUT
 49 304242NARITA Hideyuki1993JPN
 48 103865PHILP Trevor1992CAN
 47 561244KRANJEC Zan1992SLO
 45 934566ROBERTS Hig1991USA
 44 150644KRYZL Krystof1986CZE
 43 422073NETELAND Bjoernar1991NOR
 42 6530115CHRISTIANSON Kieffer1992USA
 40 54063FELLER Manuel1992AUT
 38 481103ANDRIENKO Aleksander1990RUS
 37 103762WERRY Tyler1991CAN
 36 422278WINDINGSTAD Rasmus1993NOR
 33 512182MEILLARD Loic1996SUI
 32 51215BAUMANN Romed1986AUT
 30 531799FORD Tommy1989USA
 27 292000BLARDONE Massimiliano1979ITA
 26 511718PLEISCH Manuel1990SUI
 24 180666TORSTI Samu1991FIN
Did not finish 1st run
 76 710320LAIKERT Igor1991BIH
 71 92720POPOV Albert1997BUL
 70 30149SIMARI BIRKNER Cristian Javier1980ARG
 69 151024KOTZMANN Adam1993CZE
 68 180705PIRINEN Eemeli1993FIN
 64 561217KOSI Klemen1991SLO
 61 501903CASSMAN Anton1993SWE
 60 990081CASSE Mattia1990ITA
 58 511988GENOUD Amaury1993SUI
 56 303097ISHII Tomoya1989JPN
 54 501898ROENNGREN Mattias1993SWE
 53 530758COHEE Nick1988USA
 46 180627MALMSTROM Victor1991FIN
 41 511638TUMLER Thomas1989SUI
 35 202597SCHMID Alexander1994GER
 20 990116DE ALIPRANDINI Luca1990ITA
 13 511852CAVIEZEL Gino1992SUI
 11 180534SANDELL Marcus1987FIN