Ted Ligety gave the rest of the men’s World Cup a severe wake up call in coming from second after the first run to win the opening Men’s World Cup Giant Slalom of the 2012-13 season. Sitting just 0.04 hundredths behind first run leader Thomas Fanara, Ligety admitted that he was on the limit as he attacked the second run. With Manfred Moelgg having just taken the lead, the Italian hardly had time to get his jacket on before the first split of Ligety was up on the board. The steep section of the course plays a major part in the race down the glacier and Ligety was a class ahead of the rest of the field. If Ligety was still having problems with his new skis, the rest of the field must be having absolute nightmares! Manfred Moelgg held on for second with last years World Cup winner, Marcel Hirscher, coming from ninth after the first run to take third.
With new snow having fallen over night it was great to see that the first run ran on time. Although the weather was still pretty dark and cloudy, Ligety was the only one of the top seven seeds to be able to master the conditions. Marcel Hirscher, starting just two behind Ligety was over a second behind and he would eventually drop to ninth on the first run. Thomas Fanara made the most of clear weather that came through just 15 minutes after the first run had started. Could they have started the race a little later? Hard to say as had they done this the TV stations may have started drifting off. Svindal commented after the race that Ligety was a good second and a half faster than the rest of the field on the first run but had been held back by the weather.
If the weather was bad for the first run then between the two runs, the weather closed in, more snow started to fall and there were a few worried faces around. Where there is a will there is a way! Despite the delay in getting many of the spectators up the hill due to the snow, the roads cleared and allowed the world to see the top 30 Giant Slalom racers prepare to do battle on the second run. Cyprien Richard was the first of the racers down for the second run and he was the first of seven racers to crash out – a victim to the soft snow starting to build up along the course.
Young Austrian Marcel Mathis was the first racer to wake up the 12,000 crowd that had made it up the hill – including a number of young British racers from Ambition! Mathis managed to take second place behind the winner of the Australian and New Zealand Series Adam Zampa. Zampa would hold to to ninth place from his start number of 40. At one stage the Austrians started to dream of taking ahold of the podium with Reichelt and Raich in the top two spots and Mathis just behind them.
By the time Marcel Hirscher came down to take the lead, the cloud was coming in and the snow was falling heavily. Hirscher grabbed the lead and the question was could he hang on to it. The lead that the top four from the first run was substantial. In the conditions, the lead was huge. By the time Moelgg attacked the course, Hirscher was still holding court in the Leaders Enclosure. The Dream was starting to look like reality.
Moelgg ended the dream for Hirscher with a tremendous run that replicated the form the Italian had a few years ago. It wa sgreat to see the joy and relief on the Italians face. Could he now add to his World Cup wins?
Moelgg had had the advantage of good weather over Ligety and had a deficit of twelve hundredths over the American. By the first split Moelgg must have known that it was not going to be his day as Ligety drove into a 1.39 second lead. Ligety was giving the world of ski racing a real shot in the arm of excitement. ‘I was on the edge,’ admitted Ligety afterwards. As the crowd watched in complete awe as to how the American was destroying the course, every one was praying he would get down to enjoy the rewards that his run should bring. Ligety skis a little rounder than most of the racers and maybe this helped him he felt. My the bottom of the course, Ligety had carved out a huge 2.75 second lead over Moelgg in second. Eyes were being rubbed to check if the score board was right. Not since the era of Ingemar Stenmark in the late seventies had a racer won by so much. “I did not deliberately go out to do this, these things just happen when you ski well,” Ligety explained almost dumbfounded himself.
As the crowd tried to recover from the excitement of Ligety’s run, Thomas Fanara had to compose himself and try and put in a great run. Small mistakes at the top cost him time and by the time he crossed the finish line he had to be content with fourth place.
So is this the end of the argument on the skis? Ligety is addament that he is still not totally happy with the skis but it is more the way the change came about that he is at swords with the authorities over. Many of the racers have commented that they are more tired after 50 seconds down the course than they were after one minute thirty on the old skis. There are other ways that FIS could have looked at things when they take the safety aspect into account the likes of Ligety believe. Input from the athletes is certainly one way that they would all like.
So the 2012 – 13 season is off and running. The debate over ski regulations will fill pages of the sports pages over the next few weeks and the debate will rage on the Social Networks. Next stop is Levi in Finland for the Slalom racers – including we believe Dave Ryding for Britain!