Ted Ligety

Ted Ligety, Bode Miller go 1-2 in Beaver Creek giant slalom (video)

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Ted Ligety dominated as usual. Bode Miller looked like the Miller of old.

The Americans went one-two in a World Cup giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday. It marked the first time the U.S. put two men on a World Cup podium since Jan. 17, 2009.

The world champion Ligety won in a two-run time of 2 minutes, 35.77 seconds. He beat Miller by a comfortable 1.32 seconds. Miller was a half-second faster than third-place Austrian Marcel Hirscher, the reigning World Cup overall champion.

“It’s cool having Bode back,” Ligety said on NBCSN. “He just showed a tremendous amount of speed, for sure. He’s so up and down in training. What he just did there was really awesome. It’s cool to finally have another American, right up there pushing me in training and racing.”

Ligety won his fourth straight World Cup giant slalom dating to last season. The last man to win four straight giant slaloms was Italian Alberto Tomba in 1991.

The last man to win five straight was Swede Ingemar Stenmark, who won all 10 giant slaloms in 1978-79 and is the all time World Cup wins leader with 86.

Ligety had plenty of margin for error in the second run after taking a 1.1-second lead over Miller in the morning run.

“Second run was tough,” Ligety said on NBCSN. “It got pretty dark again, pretty bumpy, too. It’s nice to have a 1.2 cushion, so you don’t have to take too many risks. I’m pretty psyched.”

Miller tried to put pressure on Ligety by posting the fastest second run in the 30-man field, but Ligety, the final skier, was .22 faster in a conservative run through tough conditions on a snowy afternoon.

“Ted is the most clutch skier there’s been,” Miller said on NBCSN. “When he has a first-run lead, he loses it less than anybody. So I wanted to make sure I put him in the position of knowing that I had come down and stuck a run. He lived up to it again today.”

Ligety, 29, has now won 19 career World Cup races, all giant slaloms. In February, he became the first man in 45 years to win three gold medals at a single World Championships.

Miller, 36, posted his first top 10 of the season in his sixth race. The five-time Olympic medalist missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery.

Miller’s last World Cup podium was Feb. 3, 2012. His last World Cup giant slalom podium was March 17, 2007.

Miller won an Olympic silver medal in the giant slalom in 2002, but he’s become more of a speed-event skier over the last decade. The U.S. went one-two in a World Cup giant slalom for the first time in eight years.

Back then, it was Miller and Daron Rahlves. Like Ligety, Miller is excited to have competition from a countryman as Sochi nears.

“It’s the best,” Miller said on NBCSN. “Me and Daron had that. Ted’s been so strong now, for a bunch of years, in GS. I just haven’t had it where it needed to be, injury wise or intensity wise or conditioning wise.

“It’s been a long time coming for us. It was a big challenge for me to come back.”

The Alpine skiing World Cup continues in Val d’Isere, France, next weekend. They will race a giant slalom Saturday and a slalom Sunday.

Beaver Creek Giant Slalom
1. Ted Ligety (USA) 2:35.77
2. Bode Miller (USA) 2:37.09
3. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 2:37.59
4. Mathieu Faivre (FRA) 2:38.61
5. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) 2:38.71
6. Carlo Janka (SUI) 2:38.78
7. Felix Neureuther (GER) 2:38.82
8. Leif Kristian Haugen (NOR) 2:38.83
9. Stefan Luitz (GER) 2:38.98
10. Roberto Nani (ITA) 2:39.00
33. Tim Jitloff (USA)
36. Brennan Rubie (USA)
44. Warner Nickerson (USA)
51. Robby Kelley (USA)

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Kerri Walsh Jennings’ next partner is a familiar one

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Kerri Walsh Jennings is slated to play with with 2008 Olympian Nicole Branagh this summer, after she and Olympic bronze medal teammate April Ross split last month.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion with Misty May-Treanor before that bronze in Rio, and Branagh, who made the Beijing Games quarterfinals with Elaine Youngs, are entered in an FIVB World Tour event in Croatia the last week of June.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are both 38 years old and briefly paired in 2010 when May-Treanor was uncertain about making a run for the London Olympics. When May-Treanor told Walsh Jennings she was all-in for London, Walsh Jennings split from Branagh.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are hoping to play together through the World Tour Finals in late August, according to Volleyball Magazine.

That includes the world championships in Vienna, Austria, in late July and early August.

It’s not known if they will have the combined ranking points to earn an outright worlds spot. They could also receive a wild card for worlds. Entries will be announced next month.

Walsh Jennings, a mother of three, has said she hopes to play in the 2020 Olympics at age 41, when she will be older than any previous Olympic beach or indoor volleyball player, according to Olympic historians.

Branagh returned to competition this year after a one-year break to have her second child. She has played few international events since 2012 and last won internationally in 2010 (with Walsh Jennings).

Ross, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist and 2009 World champion, is now partnered with Lauren Fendrick, who played with Brooke Sweat in Rio. Ross, 34, said she will figure out her long-term partner plans for Tokyo 2020 after this season.

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Catching up with Ross Powers

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Ross Powers, now 38 years old and 15 years removed from his Olympic snowboarding title, is still out with halfpipe riders on the snow five days per week.

The difference now is that Powers is coaching. He runs the snowboarding program at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, where he graduated from in 1997.

Powers spoke with OlympicTalk before last season, reflecting on 20 years of snowboarding in the Olympics, Shaun White and how he likes coaching.

OlympicTalk: The PyeongChang Winter Games will mark 20 years since snowboarding’s debut in Nagano. What was it like competing in the first Olympic halfpipe?

Powers (who won bronze in Nagano at age 19): It seemed kind of like a regular World Cup. We were up in the mountains. At the time, it was a really good halfpipe, but we ended up competing in some bad weather, some rain. I didn’t realize until I left Japan and got home how big the Olympics were. But looking back, it was a special time. And I really learned from the ’98 Olympics, like if I get this chance again, I’m going to go there, I’m going to do it all. I’m going to go to Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, watch as many events as I can and just make the most out of the Games.

OlympicTalk: The Nagano halfpipe was about half the size of today’s superpipes (394 feet long with 11 1/2-foot walls vs. 590 feet with 22-foot walls in Sochi). Could today’s snowboarders compete with you guys back in 1998?

Powers: It was so different. At the time, I want to say it was the biggest pipe we rode, but compared to today’s standards, it’s small. The weather was tricky. I think a lot of those guys [today] could ride it, but it’s so much different than today’s halfpipe for sure.

OlympicTalk: In 2002, when you led a U.S. men’s halfpipe medal sweep, the rider who just missed the Olympic team was a 15-year-old Shaun White. What do you remember about him?

Powers: You kind of knew he was going to be the next guy. Where he took our sport and certain tricks. One thing that really impressed me about him is he’ll train really hard for an event, show up, even if the conditions are bad, he’s planned this trick he wants to do, and he’ll try it no matter what. Most of the time he’ll give it a go and land it. That actually hurt him in Russia [White attempted but couldn’t perfect the YOLO Flip 1440 in Sochi] because he probably could have stepped down a notch, gotten a medal and maybe even won the event.

OlympicTalk: Did Shaun ever beat you before you retired?

Powers: I had my run from 1998, ’99, ’00, ’01, all those times that I was doing really well. I tried to make the 2006 Olympics in Italy. I was the alternate, so I just missed that. He was definitely beating me up through those times.

OlympicTalk: Did you travel to the Torino Olympics as an alternate?

Powers: I did, yeah. I traveled over there and actually watched my buddy [Seth] Wescott win the gold in boarder cross. That night, he was like, you should try boarder cross. That kind of got me into doing that my next few years after that.

[Editor’s Note: Powers almost made the 2010 Olympic team in snowboard cross, even finishing third in a December 2009 World Cup.]

OlympicTalk: Which is tougher, coaching or competing?

Powers: I would say it is tougher coaching than competing. You just have so many responsibilities and so much work. The nice thing about coaching, though, compared to competing, is you can kind of push yourself and have fun [riding] on certain days but then also sit back and really work with the athletes on all other days. So when you’re feeling it, you can push yourself. So it’s not like an athlete, where you have to push yourself.

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