KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – The United States' Alpine team has its first gold medal of the 2014 Winter Olympics thanks to Ted Ligety.
Long recognized as one of the top skiers on the World Cup circuit, Ligety seized his second Olympic Alpine gold medal on Wednesday – the first time a U.S. skier has done so – by dominating the giant slalom at the Sochi Games. Considered the world’s best in the event, Ligety wasted little time backing up that reputation, taking advantage of good course conditions. Weaving a noticeably tight line, he dropped the hammer in a nearly flawless first run with a time of 1:21.08. That gave him a strong .93 lead over the field heading into his second run, and he held on for the victory. France's Steve Missillier and Alexis Pinturalut won silver and bronze.
Ligety came to a sliding stop after crossing the finish line and raised his arms in celebration.
"I did what I needed to do to make it," said Ligety, who also won gold in the super combined at the 2006 Games in Turin. "I'm super happy with the outcome."
[Related: Bode Miller's Olympic career possibly over]
It is the first gold for the U.S. Alpine team and continues the momentum from Sunday’s super-G, when Americans Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller took silver and bronze, respectively. Julia Mancuso also won a bronze medal in the women's super combined.
Skiing in his strongest discipline, Ligety was nearly flawless in the first run after pushing off from the seventh position. He was more cautious in his second run, not wanting to risk too much.
Not only was Ligety mistake free, he looked as aggressive as he has in four races in these Games, including the super-G and both legs of the super combined. He finished 14th and 12th in those races, respectively.
"Sometimes my best or fastest run doesn't feel like that," Ligety said. "Today I actually felt at times that I was going a little too cautiously, but I managed to get a nice buffer."
The No. 3 skier in the world and No. 1 in the giant slalom, Ligety had a subpar start at the Winter Olympics and admitted to not being aggressive enough in earlier races. Some of the mistakes were made adjusting his tactical approach to difficult conditions, but with good skiing weather on Wednesday, there was little need to overthink his approach.
"Conditions changed a lot overnight," Ligety said. "With it getting a lot colder, it has almost transformed. It's almost like winter now, it's a lot less summery than it has been."
Miller’s surgically repaired left knee was acting up coming into Wednesday’s race and he ultimately finished 20th. Americans Tim Jitloff and Jared Goldberg finished 15th and 19th, respectively.
"It’s asking a bit much of my left knee still, on those kinds of bumps," Miller said. "Right in the middle there’s a left-footed turn that just seems like crazy big bumps. I thought maybe I could do it, but confidence-wise, I just don’t feel comfortable dropping it in that way. It cost me both runs there."
Click on the image below for more photos of Ted Ligety's win:
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