Always nice to see a big favorite come through under Olympic pressure, and that’s just what the USA’s Ted Ligety did. The 2006 combined gold medalist and two-time giant slalom world champion had a blazing first run and careful second run to take gold.
Sport: Alpine skiing
Event: Men’s giant slalom
Medalists: Ted Ligety (USA), Steve Missillier (France), Alexis Pinturault (France)
SportsMyriad projections: Ted Ligety (USA), Marcel Hirscher (Austria), Alexis Pinturault (France)
How U.S. fared: Ted Ligety was a contender in the super-G and combined but hadn’t been as close to the podium as he would’ve liked. This event, which he has dominated for the last couple of years, was a different story. He took a 0.93-second lead after the first run.
Also after the first run: Tim Jitloff 21st (2.15 back), Bode Miller 26th (2.56), Jared Goldberg 27th (2.58).
Miller took silver in this event way back in 2002 and won the 2003 World Championship, but he had focused more on the speed events in recent years. This was surely his final Olympic run, and he cruised to the finish, conceding a spot in the standings to Goldberg.
Jitloff made recovery after recovery on a wild second run, but he maintained his advantage over those who went ahead of him.
That left all eyes on Ligety, who did just what he needed in the second run to come through. And all four Americans were in the top 20: Jitloff 15th, Goldberg 19th, Miller 20th.
What happened: The Czech Republic’s Ondrej Bank was the only skier within a second of Ted Ligety in the first run, 0.93 seconds back. Then came 12 skiers within 0.38 seconds of each other, including downhill champion Matthias Mayer, France’s Alexis Pinturault, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher and Germany’s Felix Neureuther. The latter was injured in a car accident on the way to the airport to go to Sochi less than a week ago.
The stunner in the second run was France’s Steve Missillier, whose only World Cup podium was in a slalom in 2010. But his time stood as favorites like Pinturault and Hirscher came down the hill. With two riders to go, the podium was Missillier, Pinturault (0.16 behind) and Hirscher (0.46). Then Ondrej Bank had a wayward run and missed out on the podium.
So would it be a complete outsider (Missillier) or the overwhelming favorite (Ligety)? Ligety was 1.50 seconds ahead of the Frenchman, so to say the least, he wouldn’t have to be aggressive. He gave back a full second. Still had time to spare. Gold for Ligety.