Is Ligety Primed to Make A Run at the Overall Title?
After Dominant Showing in Sölden, Confidence Runs High
By Brian Pinelli
If Ted Ligety’s mind-blowing performance at the season opening GS in Sölden on October 28 – a race which he annihilated the competition, battling through a raging snowstorm during his second run to win by the absurd margin of 2.75 seconds – is a harbinger of what lies ahead for the 28-year-old Park City, Utah racer, than perhaps an overall World Cup title is in the cards?
Everyone is well aware that Ligety has been the “King of GS” in recent seasons, but maybe his track record in the overall standings may surprise the casual observer. The U.S. racer has finished among the top ten in the overall standings in each of the past five seasons. Only Ivica Kostelic and Didier Cuche have done the same. In 2007, Ligety ended 11th, following his ninth place in the overall chase the year prior, so it is nearly seven seasons that he has finished among the top ten.
His consistency over recent years along with his dominating showing and mastery of the new skis on the Rettenbach Glacier begs the question – is Ligety poised to make an assault on ski racing’s most coveted prize – an overall World Cup title?
“I skied a high volume this offseason so I was able to do a lot of everything,” said Ligety. “It’s always a matter of things coming together. I feel like if have a few good races, I’m skiing well and I’m confident then things can go really well,” he said when asked about becoming a more complete all-around skier.
Regarding his fitness and conditioning, the 1.68-meter Ligety believes he is exactly where he needs to be to handle the grueling 36-race, 19-venue World Cup schedule and make a serious run at a season title.
“I worked really hard in the gym this year and I think strength and endurance is going to be that much more important,” he said specifically referring to the stamina needed on the new 35-meter GS skis. “I feel like I’m in some of the best shape that I’ve been in years.”
Ligety’s triumph in Soelden – which was the largest winning margin in GS since the legendary Ingemar Stenmark won a few races by roughly four seconds 34 years ago – was his 12th career World Cup win, equaling fellow American Daron Rahlves, who also tallied 12 between 2000-2006.
Among U.S. men, only Phil Mahre (27) and Bode Miller (33) have more. Mahre has also garnered three overall titles, while Miller has a pair.
Is Ligety on the verge of burnishing his image among the greatest male U.S. skiers of all-time? With his success over recent seasons, he has certainly grabbed most of the limelight as the 35-year-old Miller winds down his superb career.
“I’m just skiing and trying to go fast, trying to progress and get better all the time and if that leads to more attention then it is what it is,” said Ligety. “Bode is still around even though he is injured right now. But if he is skiing fast, then he is the top story because he is such an interesting story.”
Although it would certainly help if he could accrue more World Cup points in super-G and downhill over the months ahead – he has scored 14 times in super-G and 5 times in downhill during his career – it seems that with more consistency in slalom, Ligety could do exactly what his friendly rival Marcel Hirscher achieved last season.
“The way Marcel won last year was pretty inspirational,” Ligety said. “To see somebody who is a GS and slalom skier win the overall is impressive – that hasn’t happened in a long time.”
Hirscher also praised Ligety with some extraordinary compliments following his 2.75 second win in Sölden.
“Maybe we have thank Ted for really pushing our sport forward today,” said Hirscher after the opening race. “Right now, he is in outer space and I am going to have to work really hard to catch up with him next month.”
Perhaps an exciting overall title battle between the talented duo of technical specialists will ensue?
Ligety’s victory in Sölden was so impressive that the United States Olympic Committee honored him as their Athlete of the Month for October.
Ligety says that his slalom training has been productive and he is optimistic about being more consistent in the discipline, something which could be the key ingredient for him to grab an overall title. In 2008, he finished ninth in the slalom standings amassing 274 points, his best total ever, so he is surely capable of stringing together multiple strong results in the discipline.
On Sunday, Ligety will attempt to carry his momentum from Sölden to the Levi Black course in the Finnish Lapland, a venue which he traditionally has struggled at.
“Hopefully, I’m carrying this confidence over to slalom, so we’ll see if I can get back on the podium a few times this season,” said Ligety.
If Ligety can do exactly that, while continuing his dominating ways in giant slalom, and stealing some points in super-G and downhill, he will certainly put himself in excellent position to make a serious run at this season’s overall title.
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