By the U.S. Ski Team and Idaho Mountain Express
Park City's Ted Ligety made it two-for-two in giant slalom on the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Saturday, Dec. 11 at Val d'Isere, Fra.
Ligety, 26, earned his seventh career World Cup victory—all in giant slalom. The 23rd podium finish for the 2006 Olympic combined gold medalist moved Ligety all the way from ninth to second place in the current World Cup men's standings.
Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal leads the standings with 236 points and Ligety collected 100 for a total of 221. He leads the giant slalom standings with 200 points, 75 more than Svindal. U.S. racer Bode Miller faded back to 27th, still with 58 points.
Meanwhile, at St. Moritz, Switz., U.S. leaders Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso placed seventh and eighth in Sunday's women's giant slalom.
In World Cup ranks, women's slalom and DH leader Maria Riesch of Germany maintained her healthy overall lead with 526 points. Vonn picked up a little ground at St. Moritz for 381 points. Mancuso is tied for fifth place with 236 points.
Ligety's adds Val d'Isere win
Reigning Audi FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom champion Ligety continued to dominate the discipline, winning his second straight GS—this one by over a second in Val d'Isere.
Ligety, the men's winner of the Audi Birds of Prey GS less than a week ago in Beaver Creek, Colo., was a 1.05-second gold medalist this time over World Cup overall leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.
"It's a surprising day for sure. It's the hardest race I've had for a long time," said Ligety, who captured the GS bronze medal in Val d'Isere at the 2009 World Championships. "This year is quite a bit turnier even than in most years. Both runs felt like I had the E brake on the whole time, but they were relatively clean. I was kind of surprised at how fast I was."
U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Sasha Rearick said, "I've been coaching Ted a long time and have never seen him find this kind of confidence. He did a great job winning the first run and then in the second run it was the same thing, just perfect execution—true champion style."
On a picture perfect day in Val d'Isere, Ligety mastered the technical Bellvarde track that was responsible for 20 DNFs in the first run, then rocketed into the finish to arc his signature 360 for the crowd.
Saturday's GS replaced the postponed opening World Cup GS of the season at Soelden, Austria in October. Ligety had been second after the first run when that race was canceled due to fog. Since, he has led the opening runs at Beaver Creek and Val d'Isere en route to back-to-back victories.
Ligety said, "I've been close in a lot of these types of races before. This time I'm just not making mistakes."
On Sunday in the French Alps, Austria's Marcel Hirscher nailed his second run to take the first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup slalom victory of his career. Will Brandenburg of Spokane, Wash. and Ligety were in the top 15 after producing solid opening runs, but fell victim to the steep and tight Face de Bellvarde pitch to straddle gates in the second run. Ligety ended the day in 25th.
The men's U.S. Alpine Ski Team heads to its official European training base, Trentino-Paganella, Italy in preparation for the upcoming races in Val Gardena and Alta Badia, Italy Dec. 17-19. The Team has called Trentino-Paganella its European base for five years.
Vonn, Mancuso 7-8 in GS
Defending Audi FIS Alpine World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colo. and a surging Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Ca. finished 7-8 in the St. Moritz giant slalom as the second run was delayed an hour due to high winds.
GS leader Tessa Worley of France (232 points) took the come-from-behind victory Sunday, just .01 over Tanja Poutianen of Finland when German favorites Kathrin Hoelzl and Viktoria Rebensburg faltered in the second run.
"The snow conditions were perfect, it was a little windy for a while there and they delayed it and then we kept going," said Vonn, who gained back a few more points toward the overall lead as German Maria Riesch finished 19th.
Vonn produced the fourth fastest second run to hurdle nine places after starting the day in 16th. Sixth after an impressive first run, Mancuso dropped two slots to eighth place after getting hung up in the grippy snow lower on the pitch.
"I made a mistake because I wasn't respecting the conditions," said Mancuso, who was on the World Cup podium last weekend in the Lake Louise super G. "I still don't know what happened I just got stuck and a little back and lost a lot time."
Vonn and Mancuso now roll to Val d'Isere, France for a series of three speed races opening with super G on Friday, Dec. 17, replacing the wind scrapped race from Saturday in St. Moritz. Val d'Isere will also feature a downhill and the season's first super combined.
Schleper and the women's tech team will regroup at the official women's U.S. Ski Team European training base in Zell am See-Kaprun, Austria for a week of training before a pre-holiday slalom on Tuesday, Dec. 21 in Courchevel, France.