BEAVER CREEK – Park City’s Ted Ligety utterly dominated the field in the Birds of Prey giant slalom here Sunday, crushing defending overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria by 1.76 seconds in front of a partisan American crowd.
Ligety’s two-run margin of victory was nearly two seconds. Combined with his nearly three-second win in the opening GS in Soelden, Austria, in October, Ligety has now won the season’s first two World Cup GS races by a total of nearly five seconds – a lifetime in ski racing.
It was the first win and the first podium for the American men this weekend in Beaver Creek, although Ligety just missed the podium (top three) in Saturday’s super G.
However, the American women’s team once again finished 1-2 on the super G podium at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Sunday, with Vail’s Lindsey Vonn winning her third straight race and Squaw Valley’s Julia Mancuso finishing second. Vonn and Mammoth’s Stacey Cook finished 1-2 in downhill races both Friday and Saturday.
Overall, Americans climbed on seven podiums and claimed four wins this weekend as the World Cup circuit wraps up its fall North American swing and heads to Europe for the rest of the season.
“Safe to say training at the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center [at Copper Mountain] and Vail’s Golden Peak paid off,” said U.S. Ski Team spokesman Doug Haney, referring to dedicated Colorado facilities where American athletes have been training since late October.
Sunday marked Ligety’s 13th career World Cup win and third at Beaver Creek. He now stands second in the overall chase (400 to 320 points) to Friday’s Birds of Prey second-place finisher Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who finished sixth in Sunday’s GS."
“It's great winning in front of the home crowd, especially by that kind of margin,” Ligety said. “It's so nice to have so many friends and family here and on this slope. This hill has always treated me well and it's fun to ski here.”
Ligety, a 2006 gold medalist in combined, has won multiple GS discipline titles but never the overall crown – considered the height of achievement in ski racing because it recognizes consistency throughout an entire season of races.
“Winning the overall has been a big goal of mine since I started ski racing,” Ligety said. “I think it's attainable, but with Aksel (Lund Svindal) skiing as well as he is, if he keeps that going, he’s going to be tough to beat. It will be difficult, but I have a better chance this year than I have had in the past.”
Only four Americans have every won the overall title: Phil Mahre three times, Bode Miller twice, Vonn four times and Tamara McKinney once. Vonn is back on track for her American record fifth overall title after suffering a stomach illness that landed her in the Vail hospital last month.
Her second consecutive three-race sweep at Lake Louise vaulted her from 53rd in the overall chase all the way to third, just 87 points behind Slovenia’s Tina Maze. Vonn also notched her American record 56th career World Cup win, good for sole possession of second on the all-time wins list behind only Austrian great Annemarie Moeser-Proll’s 62 victories.
“This weekend was a huge boost for my confidence,” Vonn said. “I was definitely feeling extremely low after being in the hospital and my poor result in Aspen [21st in the GS last weekend]. But I knew if there was a place to turn it around, it was Lake Louise. So I just tried to get myself every opportunity to rest and recover for the races this weekend.
“Every athlete has their favorite hill where they feel confident and comfortable. I know the hill like the back of my hand and have confidence knowing I have won here in the past.”
Vonn has now won at Lake Louise 14 times (11 downhill races and three super G’s).
The women's World Cup tour now heads to St. Moritz, Switzerland, for a super combined, super G and giant slalom next weekend. The men head to Val d'Isere for a giant slalom and slalom races.