Make it three in a row for Ted Ligety.
The world’s best giant slalom skier won the season-opening World Cup in Soelden, Austria, for the third straight year on Sunday, beating the field by .79 of a second over two combined runs.
“Pretty psyched to win this, for sure,” Ligety said. “It wasn’t easy in that second run, super dark on the pitch. Really bumpy, but whenever you win it’s a good day.”
American Bode Miller placed 19th in his first World Cup race since February 2012 coming back from injury.
The start was moved down due to heavy winds, so the fastest runs were about one minute rather than around 1:20.
Ligety, 29, took a commanding .90 lead after the first run earlier Sunday morning and clocked a total of 1:59.50 to win over France’s Alexis Pinturault and Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, the other top two giant slalom racers from last season. Ligety pumped his fist and skied into a suspended camera after crossing the finish line.
“There’s always so much anxiety coming into (the season) because you never really know where you are,” Ligety said. “I didn’t feel like this summer my skiing was really where I wanted to be.”
He prevailed by a blowout margin of 2.75 seconds last year and joined Austrian legend Hermann Maier as the only men to win Soelden three times (though Maier’s weren’t consecutive).
Ligety, who won his 18th career World Cup race (all giant slaloms), is set up for a busy season as he eyes the World Cup overall title.
He finished third in the overall standings last year behind Hirscher and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal. Svindal tied for fourth at Soelden on Sunday.
Hirscher is the reigning World Cup slalom champion, and Svindal racks up points in speed events.
But nobody was better than Ligety at the World Championships in February, when he became the first man in 45 years to win three gold medals.
The World Cup continues with a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 17, where a rather unusual prize will be awarded.
Soelden Giant Slalom
1. Ted Ligety (USA) 1:59.50
2. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) 2:00.29
3. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 2:00.52
4. Steve Missillier (FRA) 2:01.23
4. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) 2:01.23
6. Markus Sandell (FIN) 2:01.32
7. Thomas Fanara (FRA) 2:01.58
8. Cyprien Richard (FRA) 2:01.66
9. Mathieu Faivre (FRA) 2:01.68
10. Philipp Schoerghofer (AUT) 2:01.80
19. Bode Miller (USA) 2:02.79
20. Tim Jitloff (USA) 2:02.81