American Ted Ligety has surprised the field to win the men's super-G at the World Ski Championships in Austria. It was an uplifting win for the US team, who lost star Lindsey Vonn to a season-ending injury a day earlier.
The 28-year-old Ligety finished with a time of 1 minute 23.96 seconds Wednesday to claim first place on the 1.8 kilometer-long (1.1 miles) Planai course at Schladming in day two of the World Ski Championships. Late French call-up Gauthier De Tessieres took second at 0.20 seconds behind, with Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway finishing third at 0.02 seconds adrift.
"It's wonderful. I can't believe it. It was a tough race, slippery with tough turns but I kept fighting. I think my love for free skiing must have helped me today in those difficult conditions," said Ligety.
It was an uplifting win for an American team still mourning the loss of star Lindsey Vonn from the competition after a bad accident in the women's super-G the day before. During the crash, she ruptured right knee ligaments and broke her shin, sidelining her for the remainder of the season. She is expected to fly back to the US for surgery next week.
"This is for sure a sweet moment," said Ligety. "It means a lot to me and the US team after the hard crash of Lindsey Vonn yesterday."
Going into the race, Ligety was the underdog. He didn't have a single World Cup super-G victory in his ten seasons on the global ski circuit. His sole podium in the event came on the notorious Bellevarde piste in Val d'Isere, France in 2010.
But that course differs greatly from the Planai, which features a tricky roll six gates from the end that ensured many skiers were "bumped" into losing valuable time by skiing wide on the next gate to compensate.
The American from Utah reached speeds of 83 kph (52mph) during the event, and maintained control in the final, tricky turn to finish cleanly.
The win bodes well for Ligety's medal hopes in the giant slalom, in which he is reigning world champion, and combined events, in which he is the 2006 Olympic gold medalist.
Race of surprises
It was also an impressive race for runner-up De Tessieres, who was only called up to replace the injured Johan Clarey in the French team at the last moment.
"It's difficult to analyze," said De Tessieres after the race. "Five days ago they called me to say I was not qualified."
"Now I'm here. I've had no time to think," he added. "My coach told me it was destiny."
Svindal's third-place finish came as a surprise to many. The Norwegian heavyweight was the favorite going into the race, and was hoping to add to his Olympic gold medal, but saw his world title slip away after going wide into the final schuss, losing valuable tenths of a second.
"This snow was soft and rutted from all the runs ahead of me but it's part of the rules of our sport and you have to accept that, even though I enter every one of my races with victory in mind," said Svindal.
Defending world champion Christoph Innerhofer of Italy finished seventh with a time of 1:25:05, 1.09 seconds off the pace.
Austrians Hannes Reichelt (1:24:51) and Mattias Mayer (1:24:91) finished fourth and fifth respectively, meaning the hosts continue to wait for a medal at championships.
Germany's Tobias Stechert finished 25th with a time of 1:26:64.
Thursday is a training day in Schladming and the women's super-combined event is scheduled for Friday.
dr/hc (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP, SID)