By ANDREW DAMPF
2013-02-07 07:04 AM
A day after Vonn's season-ending crash at the world championships, Ligety showed off his rapidly improving speed skills to win the first super-G of his career in the marquee event of the season.
The timing was not lost on Ligety.
"It's definitely (tough) losing those teammates that have been so good over so many years and really carried the flag of the U.S," Ligety said after his first career super-G win. "It's tough losing them, for sure, but it's an individual sport, too. You're out there competing for yourself."
Vonn, meanwhile, will head home for surgery in Colorado next week after tearing two ligaments in her right knee and breaking a bone in her lower leg.
Still, Vonn said she plans to compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which start a year from this week. She was released from the hospital late Tuesday and returned to the team hotel.
"I am grateful to my fans for the outpouring of support, which has really helped me stay positive," Vonn said in a statement Wednesday. "I can assure you that I will work as hard as humanly possible to be ready to represent my country next year in Sochi."
While Julia Mancuso won the bronze medal in the race in which Vonn crashed, the atmosphere at the team hotel was solemn Tuesday night. That didn't affect Ligety.
"Ski racing is a sport where you have so many teammates getting injured and it's such a huge part of the sport that if an athlete ever let that get to them they would never do good ever," Ligety said. "Because it's such a dangerous sport, it's such a norm having teammates get injured that you can't worry about it because you need to worry about yourself and try to hammer hard and be safe yourself."
Hammer he did, as Ligety took advantage of an early start number to lay down a super-clean run on a highly technical course that in many sections resembled a giant slalom more than a super-G.
Giant slalom, of course, is the discipline in which Ligety has won four of five races this season.
"I thought I had a good chance in the days leading up just because of how this hill is and how I've done so far in super-G," said Ligety, who had two fourth-place finishes in super-G recently. "I've been close to getting a couple podiums this year and getting other good results on hills that don't necessarily suit me, and this is a hill that does suit me so I knew I had a pretty good chance if I was able to put together a clean run top to bottom."
Ligety took a series of risks on the steep and twisty final section and mastered the Planai course in 1 minute, 23.96 seconds.
Gauthier De Tessieres of France finished 0.20 back for the silver medal, and Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who won three of the four World Cup super-Gs this season, was another 0.02 back in third.
Ligety had reached a super-G podium only once before, finishing second in a World Cup race in Val d'Isere, France, in 2009.
Ligety trailed then-leader De Tessieres by 0.41 at the first intermediate checkpoint, then reduced the deficit to 0.06 by the next interval and beat the Frenchman in the bottom section _ the course's most technical area.
"He was able to hang tight with the best gliders on the top and took some time on them on the bottom," U.S. men's coach Sasha Rearick said. "Ted's been skiing great all season. ... He has been just charging and skiing clean as in GS, with the confidence to take it down the hill at super-G speed."
Having started 10th, Ligety had to wait until the top-ranked super-G skiers came down 16-22 before he could celebrate.
Several skiers led Ligety at the first split, including Austria's Matthias Mayer, Italy's Matteo Marsaglia and Christof Innerhofer _ the defending champion _ and Svindal, the last of the favorites to come down with the No. 22 bib.
Wearing his personal branded Shred sunglasses and with a blonde beard grown long, Ligety looked on from the leader's box intently as one contender after another came down. It wasn't until after Svindal's highly impressive but ragged run on deteriorating course conditions that Ligety let out a fist pump and a big smile.
While Svindal was clearly at a disadvantage with his start number, he had nothing but praise for Ligety.
"Ted skied incredibly," the Norwegian said. "He could have won with a start No. in 16-22 as well. But with start No. 10 and the way he skied he really earned it. I knew that was going to be tough to beat."
Ligety became the third American man to win the world super-G title in the past 12 years after Daron Rahlves in St. Anton, Austria, in 2001 and Bode Miller in Bormio, Italy, four years later.
Miller is sitting this season out to let his left knee fully recover from surgery.
Associated Press writer Eric Willemsen contributed to this report.