Beaver Creek (United States) (AFP) - Reigning Olympic champion Ted Ligety wasn't going to let a broken wrist ruin his bid for a fifth straight World Cup giant slalom triumph at Beaver Creek.
Ligety, skiing less than two weeks after undergoing surgery to fix a broken bone and torn ligaments in his left wrist, proved once again to be unbeatable Sunday with a blistering second leg run on the Birds of Prey course.
"It wasn’t an issue really," said Ligety of the injury. "I am not thinking about it. Pain-wise it is not feeling great, but I am trying not to put it (hand) in the snow."
The 30-year-old American finished in a two-run total time of two minutes, 34.07 seconds, topping runner-up Alexis Pinturault, of France, who was 0.18 seconds back. Austria's Marcel Hirscher was third in 2:34.67.
Ligety, who has won five of the last seven World Cup giant slalom titles, broke a bone in his left wrist on US Thanksgiving less than two weeks ago while training in Vail, Colorado.
Two hours later he had to undergo surgery to fix the break and the damaged ligaments, the result of hitting a gate with his hand as he practised on the giant slalom course.
Ligety's 2014-15 season couldn't have got off to a more frustrating start. He finished 10th in the season-opening giant slalom on October 26 in Solden, Austria. And that was before undergoing the wrist surgery which included putting four pins in his hand to hold the bones together.
- Any victory is awesome -
Broken wrist or not, Ligety knew he had to give it his all in the second run Sunday after posting just the fourth fastest time in the first leg.
"Any victory is awesome, but to get the first one of the year is fun," said Ligety, who won the gold in giant slalom at the Sochi Olympics. "I was a bit frustrated after the first race of the season."
Benjamin Raich, who led after the first run, failed in his bid for his first victory in almost three years. The four-time Olympian Raich was leading after the first leg Sunday but then slipped to fourth overall.
Pinturault's runner-up finish, his 25th career podium place, came 24 hours after his third-place showing in a super-G.
"It is a great day but it wasn't easy for me," said Pinturault. "I stayed focused and managed to ski fast. It is a good place for me."
Hirscher, who won the silver medal in slalom at the Sochi Games, just edged out Austrian teammate Raich for third place.
"I am super happy to be on the podium again," said Hirscher. "If I want to have a chance to win the overall I have to be better than today.
"I am looking forward to the World Championships."
One of the most anticipated dates on the World Cup calendar this season is the World Championships which take place in Beaver Creek and Vail, Colorado, next February 2-15.
The next World Cup stop is Are, Sweden, which is the new site for both men and women's slalom and giant slalom after organisers had to cancel events in France because of poor snow conditions.