U.S. ski star Ted Ligety produced two majestic runs to defend his world giant slalom title on Friday and join an elite club of skiers to have won three or more gold medals at a world championships.
Riding the thin line between risk-taking and smart tactics to perfection, Ligety laid down a solid foundation in his first run, which was a massive 1.30sec faster than Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal.
“I’m super pumped… It was on the limit, and I took some risks, it was dark and bumpy”
Triple gold winner Ted Ligety
The 28-year-old American then nailed a slightly more conservative second run to clock an aggregate of 2min 28.92sec, 0.81sec ahead of Austrian Marcel Hirscher, with Italian Manfred Moelgg claiming bronze at 1.75sec.
“I’m super pumped,” beamed Ligety, already a gold medallist here in the super-G and super combined.
“It’s such a cool feeling and I’m glad to have got it.
“I don’t know how easy it was. It was on the limit, and I took some risks, it was dark and bumpy.
“I heard the cheering in the finish area (when Hirscher briefly took the lead), but I didn’t feel pressure. I had a 1.3sec lead.”
The famous five
Ligety became the first male skier in 45 years to win triple gold at one World Ski Championships.
The illustrious quartet to have won three or more golds that Ligety joined were Austrian Toni Sailer (four golds in 1956, three in 1958), French duo Jean-Claude Killy (four, 1968) and Emile Allais (three, 1937), and Norway’s Stein Eriksen (three, 1954).
It was also a fourth individual gold medal to equal the absent Bode Miller’s US record, and saw the US team regain their place on top of the medals table.
Ligety was a shock winner of the opening super-G and then showcased his slalom skills to claim super-combined gold, suitably filling the void felt in the US camp by the absence of the injured Lindsey Vonn.
His victory in the giant slalom, his favoured event, was not unexpected: Ligety has totally dominated the discipline on the World Cup circuit, winning four of the five giant slaloms so far this season.
With Austrian hopes for a first individual gold medal resting squarely on the young shoulders of Hirscher, the 23-year-old produced a no-holds barred quickest second run.
But he was left ruing two errors on his first run that saw him start with a 1.31sec deficit on Ligety.
Svindal was edged off the podium and into fourth by Moelgg, the giant Norwegian thus missing out on his bid for his own third medal of these championships following downhill gold and super-G bronze.