Ted Ligety‘s quest for a fourth straight season-opening win in Soelden, Austria, went awry in his second giant slalom run. Instead, Marcel Hirscher, his biggest rival and the world’s best overall skier, won on home snow Sunday.
Ligety, the Olympic, World and World Cup giant slalom champion, fell from second place behind Hirscher after the first run to 10th after the second, his worst result in eight Soelden appearances.
“I’m happy with where my skiing is,” Ligety said. “I’m not panicking or anything. It would have been really easy to get second place today. I could’ve won.”
Hirscher won by 1.58 seconds over German Fritz Dopfer. France’s Alexis Pinturault was third. Ligety was 3.02 seconds back.
“I’m super happy and wish you all a great party today,” Hirscher, the first Austrian man to win Soelden since 2005, told an adoring crowd on a national holiday.
Ligety aimed to become the first man to win Soelden four times. He and Austrian Hermann Maier are the only men to win three times. But Ligety lost substantial time on a mistake during his second run.
“A big bobble at the bottom,” U.S. coach Sasha Rearick said. “Sounds like he hit a pretty big rock and knocked off some edge. Once you do that, you can’t get speed on the ski. That’s critical for Ted’s style of skiing.”
Ligety now faces a deficit in the World Cup giant slalom standings, looking up at Hirscher. Last season, Ligety and Hirscher tied for first place in the World Cup giant slalom standings, with Ligety winning the crystal globe due to a tiebreaker.
Ligety’s hope at least the last two years has been to close the gap on Hirscher in the World Cup overall standings. Instead, Hirscher may be closing the gap on Ligety in the giant slalom. Hirscher is the world’s best slalom skier and three-time reigning World Cup overall champion.
Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller skipped the season opener due to back problems. Another American, Tim Jitloff, was 26th on Sunday.
The Alpine skiing World Cup continues with women’s and men’s slaloms in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 15 and 16.