KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia- This Saturday, Ted Ligety skied one of the most impressive Giant Slalom races we have seen all season long. With a time of 2 minutes, 22.47, Ligety managed not only to hold on to the big lead he had in the first run, but to win the second run as well. Ligety finished 1.61 seconds ahead of Alexis Pinturault, beating him by .01 seconds in the second run. After being fourth in the first run, Marcel Hirscher moved up and finished third, 2.03 seconds behind the leader.
“I skied really well today,” Ligety said. “I feel as if the last couple of races I was having a hard time finding the right amount of intensity to go out and run and today I went hard both runs. To win is always nice, and to win by such a margin makes it even nicer. I definitely built up some confidence coming into the Finals- too bad I didn’t do this a couple of weeks ago.”
With this being his fourth time at the very top of the podium in Kranjska Gora, Ligety sure loves the Slovenian venue.
“This has always been a great place for me, I have always had a lot of success here and for me this is one of the coolest stops on the Tour- it sure has a lot of character to it, the atmosphere is always great so winning again here is perfect. The time difference is what makes this win more special, in the last few races some people might have started writing me off and I think today I was able to prove them wrong. It’s unfortunate that I’m not closer to the GS title, but I’m still skiing well so that’s something I’m proud of. I’m too far back from a real chance at the discipline title, Hirscher would have to go out in the next races so I could even stand a chance, but you never know…”
Ligety struggled a little over the past couple of races, but today it seemed as if his mindset was back where it needs to be.
“Having those six weeks off between the GS races might have made it a bit hard for me to get right back into the amount of intensity I need to race. I was a little bit lazy in my approach to those races, in the mental preparation just before the race. Today my goal was DNF or win, and I’m glad I made it to the right side of that.”
With the 60 points collected today, Hirscher was able to narrow the gap separating him from the current Overall leader Beat Feuz. With one Slalom left before the Finals in Schladming, there are now just 55 points of difference between the two young skiers. On the other hand, Hirscher should feel pretty safe in the Giant Slalom standings, going to Schladming with a 92 points lead, but we have seen crazy things happen in the Finals over the years so nothing is yet completely decided.
“It feels amazing to know that I might win the discipline title, but at this point nothing is fixed and we still have to wait for the finals,” Hirscher said. “I am in a good position, the best I have ever been and it’s the same thing in the run for the Overall. Today I gave it all; I didn’t have the Overall in my head while skiing. I try to not think about the points, even now I don’t know how things are after this race but everything is possible. I could ski out, and with Ted’s current great shape, he could easily win and take home the GS Globe.”
At this time, every point counts for Hirscher and he can’t afford making any mistakes in this last races if he wants to chance to take home all three Globes he has the chance of winning this season, but he doesn’t seem to be under too much pressure; even though if he wins the Overall, he would be the first skier after Alberto Tomba to win it by collecting points exclusively in the technical disciplines.
“I have a lot of opportunities this season, maybe I’ll get a globe and maybe I’ll get none but regardless of that this has been an incredible season for me. I won eight races and with or without a Globe- it was really fun.”
Hirscher also showed a lot of respect to Kostelic’s and knows he will be at the start of tomorrow’s Slalom race, trying to defend his 35 points lead in the discipline rankings.
“I see Kostelic as a great athlete, he won so many things over his long career- if someone can ski after such a short time from an injury like his, that’s Ivica. He had a lot of experience with injuries and knows himself well. If he was at the GS start, he will be there for the Slalom for sure and he will be strong. He is such a good skier that he knows if he is ready or not- I have a feeling he is here to do a great job.”
Alexis Pinturault was third after the first run and with a mistake in the top section of the second, he was not very optimistic while crossing the finish line.
“The slope today was really good, I made some mistakes but Ted did a great job today- I am happy with my second place,” the young French skier said. “When I crossed the finish line I thought I was far behind because of the mistakes I made.”
Kranjska gora might be special for Ligety, but Pinturault also has some fond memories of the place. He stood on his first World Cup podium here a year ago.
“Of course with Kranjska Gora being the venue where I first stood on the podium, being here with the same result a year later makes it special. All I want to do is improve and am looking forward to good results in the future as well. Ted was awesome today, even though I am 1.61 behind, I’m still happy. I will try to be in the top ten in tomorrow’s Slalom and leave this place with an even bigger smile.”
Massimiliano Blardone, who was second after the first run didn’t manage to hold on to his position and finished fourth, just .03 seconds off the podium.
His teammate Florian Eisath was the only skier that did not make it to the finish line in today’s second run. He caught an edge half the way down the slope, crashed into the nets and had to be taken to the bottom of the slope in a sledge. First information suggests he might have suffered a compound fracture of the humerus. We'll update the story when further news are released.
Feuz gave a shot at collecting some points some valuable points for the Overall in today’s GS, but he was unable to qualify for the second run- finishing 35th, 4.25 seconds slower than Ligety‘s first run and .37 seconds off the top 30.
The slalom is scheduled for tomorrow with start times at 9.30 and 12.30.
by Ana Jelusic