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