Ted Ligety wins giant slalom season title in dramatic fashion (video)

Ted Ligety
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Ted Ligety won the World Cup giant slalom season title by .01 of a second and a points tiebreaker in one of the tightest title races in Alpine skiing history Saturday.

“This has always been the big goal, every single year, to win the giant slalom cup,” Ligety said. “That was by the skin of my teeth today.”

Ligety, the Olympic and world champion in giant slalom, won the World Cup Finals giant slalom race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on Saturday.

But he needed help from other skiers to pass Austrian Marcel Hirscher for the season title, which accumulates points from eight races over the last five months.

Hirscher, who had made the podium in six of seven GS races this season, had to finish fourth or worse if Ligety won on Saturday. Ligety skied next to last in the second and final run and into the lead, pushing Hirscher to third.

The last man, first-run leader Felix Neureuther of Germany, needed to finish behind Ligety but ahead of Hirscher for Ligety to win his fifth GS crystal globe in seven years. Neureuther had to ski within a window of .27.

Neureuther crossed the finish .26 behind Ligety and, more importantly, .01 ahead of Hirscher.

“Felix, I owe a lot of beers,” Ligety said.

That meant Ligety and Hirscher tied for 560 points this season, and Ligety won the season title via a tiebreaker. The tie was broken by total GS wins this season. Ligety had five. Hirscher had two.

“That was a tough race this year,” Ligety said. “I was able to win quite a bit of giant slaloms, but it’s really a testament to the mental fortitude of Marcel, to be able to get in there on the podium basically every single race and make it a super, really tough fight this year, and really every year.”

Hirscher, wearing sunglasses at the finish, looked expressionless.

He wore the face of “a beaten man,” according to Eurosport commentators, despite the fact that Hirscher clinched his third straight overall World Cup title Saturday, assuming Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal sticks by his word and isn’t entered in Sunday’s slalom finale.

Lenzerheide Giant Slalom
1. Ted Ligety (USA) 2:15.63
2. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) 2:15.66
3. Felix Neureuther (GER) 2:15.89
4. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 2:15.90
5. Roberto Nani (ITA) 2:16.08
6. Fritz Dopfer (GER) 2:16.27
7. Luca De Aliprandini (ITA) 2:16.35
8. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) 2:16.37
9. Matts Olsson (SWE) 2:16.51
10. Steve Missillier (FRA) 2:16.54
14. Tim Jitloff (USA) 2:17.12
15. Bode Miller (USA) 2:17.17

Final World Cup Giant Slalom Standings
1. Ted Ligety (USA) — 560
2. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 560
3. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) — 378

Shiffrin caps season with blowout victory

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”