Giant slalom champion 2014 unlikely to repeat
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea
Ted Ligety knew he hadn’t turned in the best opening run in defense of his Olympic giant slalom title. What he couldn’t tell as he was heading down the hill was just how poorly he’d done.
“I was really surprised when I saw the time,” the 33-year-old American said today after the first of two GS runs at the Pyongyang Alpine Center effectively ended any hopes of another medal in a race he won at the 2014 Sochi Games.
“It didn’t feel like I crushed it,” Ligety said, before adding with a chuckle: “But it didn’t feel 21/2 seconds bad.”
To be precise, Ligety’s leg of 1 minute, 10.71 seconds put him in 20th place and 2.44 seconds off the pace set by favorite Marcel Hirscher, the Austrian superstar who already won the Alpine combined gold at these Olympics and owns a record six consecutive World Cup overall titles.
“My goal was definitely to try to be challenging for a medal here. I thought that was definitely within my range. Way out of it now,” said Ligety, who finished fifth on Tuesday in the combined, an event he collected gold in at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
He was able to smile and crack a joke when asked to entertain the far-fetched notion that, because anything can happen, perhaps there was still a chance of a high finish at a mountain where he claimed his first career World Cup race victory back in March 2006.
“I mean, maybe if we get some good wind gusts this afternoon and I get a nice tailwind and those guys get a nice headwind — if something funky happens, then maybe I have a hope and a prayer,” Ligety said. “But if it’s a normal, fair race, then this is way too big of a detriment to climb out of.”
All in all, rather unlikely.
The giant slalom has been Ligety’s forte for years.
In addition to the triumph at Sochi, which made him the only U.S. male Alpine skier with two Olympic golds, he won GS world championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015, along with a bronze in the event at the 2009 worlds.
But this morning in South Korea, he misjudged the course.
“I just thought it would run maybe a little bit more challenging than maybe it did,” Ligety said.