Ted Ligety was in unfamiliar position after the opening run of his first race in nine months — in 14th place in Soelden, Austria, where he has been the most successful skier in history.
Ligety, who has won the season-opening giant slalom a record four times and never finished outside the top 10, was 1.49 seconds behind on the Rettenbach glacier going into the second and final run.
Concern would be warranted. Ligety may have won the last three world titles and the 2014 Olympic title in giant slalom, but he is now 32 years old and coming off a torn right ACL suffered in January training.
Before that, Ligety failed to finish six straight races and missed the podium in 11 straight while also dealing with three herniated disks in his back and a torn hip labrum.
So when Ligety entered the start house for his second run Saturday afternoon, he had something to prove.
The American would salvage his start to the season with the third-fastest second run, .16 behind French winner Alexis Pinturault, to finish fifth overall, 1.65 second back.
Austrian Marcel Hirscher, the five-time reigning World Cup overall champion, was runner-up, seven tenths shy of Pinturault. German Felix Neureuther was third. Full results are here.
The Alpine skiing World Cup moves to Levi, Finland, for men’s and women’s slaloms in three weeks.
The next key races for Ligety are in Beaver Creek, Colo., the first weekend of December, including a giant slalom Dec. 4.
ALPINE SKIING SEASON PREVIEWS: Men | Women