Ted Ligety chose the right time to win his first Super G – the World Championships. Before this race, the renown GS skier had posted a best of second in Super G back in 2009 in Val d’Isere yet had been in great form on the World Cup with two fourth places and a sixth place. With the Schladming slope and the course that was set up for the race combining to give a more technical rather than a gliding passage, this was a chance for the more Giant Slalom orientated racers. During inspection, Aksel Lund Svindal, bronze medal winner, thought to himself that this was a course that would suit the outstanding Giant slalom skier from America. And so it proved as Ligety won from Gauthier de Tessieres and Svindal taking third ahead of two Austrians, Hannes Reichelt and Mathias Mayer.
In the team managers meeting the night before the race, Gunther Hujara, the referee, explained that due to the weather conditions expected, there was a possibility of the race being delayed as better weather was expected in the afternoon. While it was not perfect conditions, the light was still flat, these were challenging conditions for the athletes to deal with. Â Going early was definitely a bonus many of the athletes agreed and both Ligety and Svindal used the knowledge learned from watching Gauthier de Tessieres run from bib 4.
Going not long after, Ligety knew that this was his big chance. This was a technical hill that had few gliding sections. “Super G has been pretty good for me this year,” Ligety explained “I took a lot of risks. Figured if I could go clean as possible it would be a good strategy. This proved to be the right way to go.” Ligety was in the mix at the first split but it was his middle section where he built his run. A small mistake on the last pitch into the finish looked ominous but the green light stayed on for him and de Tessieres cursed his luck.
Not having been selected at first for the Super G, de Tessieres had created a story for himself in posting what was now the second fastest time. The injury to Johan Clarey opened the door for de Tessieres in the GS and he grabbed this opportunity with both hands. He had put his cards on the table and now it was a case of wait for the others to try and better it.
Young Austrian Mathias Mayer was next up to challenge and the Austrian, roared on by a crowd of 24,000 lining the course and in the finish area, Mayer gave Ligety cause for concern until he came across the last transition approaching the finish and had to use all his strength to stay on his feet. The momentum was still there but the speed had ebbed away. For a while he joined Ligety and de Tessieres in the leaders enclosure but his fellow countryman Hannes Reichelt soon pushed him aside.
Next up was the defending champion, Christof Innerhofer. You can never count out the Italian and he was on the ball from the moment he started. Yet like many of the racers to this point he seemed to lose the momentum approaching the bottom and by the time the defending champion crossed the line, his reign as World Champion was over. Ever the gentleman though he clutched his World Champion’s bob with pride. His first stop after leaving the finish area was to go and shake the hands with Ligety, a true gentleman.
Last of the big guns to go was the man who in four Word Cup Super G’s this season has finished first three times and second in the other. Not a bad record for the season! Both Ligety and de Tessieres are strong yet slight racers. Ligety stands at five foot ten yet used the new ski regulations to get stronger, it certainly helped today. Svindal is a big man and strong as well. This was not though a downhiller’s course, this was more a course for the Giant Slalom skier.
Ligety felt that while the Course had been well prepared, it was “still far from ideal race conditions. The continuous rolls meant that it was hard to get line right and have the right feeling but you have to attack. I was tired at bottom but took a lot of risks.” Svindal felt that the “Course was well set, hill demanding, not so much tucking, more GS skiing. Ted took risks and pulled it off. Mid section took a lot of time off all. I held it almost all the way apart from last turn. Even when things are not perfect you have to be happy.”
So the Head skiers packed the top five places with just Hannes Reichelt taking fourth to stop the rot. Didier Cuche, watching in the stands along with many other prominent racers and ex racers, felt that it was a great result for the brand but one that was not wholly unexpected given the way that the course was set; Ligety and Svindal are both World Cup Giant Slalom race winners and de Tessieres is one of the best as well.
With 82 racers entered and starting, the final racer, 17 year old Hungarian Marton Kerkesi proved a hit with the crowd still watching in the finish as he managed to pull off a ski flip a la Cuche! Sadly he had missed a gate so the records will show him as a DSQ.
First Gold in the Men’s Championships goes to Ligety! His big rival for the GS crown, Marcel Hirscher, had the grace to show his appreciation of what Ligety had accomplished though Facebook! Great style