BEAVER CREEK, Colorado — Ted Ligety caught up to his boyhood idol on a day when no one could come close to catching up to him, even with a broken wrist.
The American used a powerful second run Sunday to capture his 23rd career World Cup giant slalom race.
With that, Ligety tied Switzerland's Michael von Gruenigen for second all-time in the discipline. Only fitting, since Ligety was a big fan of von Gruenigen growing up in Utah.
"To have the same amount of World Cup wins as him is surreal," Ligety said. "It's really cool."
In fourth place after the opening run, Ligety found speed where others couldn't on a steadily deteriorating course. He finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 34.07 seconds. Alexis Pinturault of France was second, 0.18 seconds behind, and Austria's Marcel Hirscher ended up third.
Ligety had four metal screws inserted into his left wrist after an accident during training Nov 22. He didn't take any time off after surgery, though. Instead, he trained without a pole for a little bit, since he couldn't hang on to it. Ligety said that actually helped him develop more balance going around gates.
Hirscher joked that it really didn't matter if Ligety raced with one pole — or even one ski — he would still be fast.
"Ted is definitely one of the best, no, I'm sure, the best GS skier in the world," Hirscher said. "It impresses me a lot. It is really great for all young skiers that they can watch him and see. It doesn't matter if he skis with one pole, two poles, one ski or no skis, he just does it."
Benjamin Raich of Austria led after the first run, but it was a tightly bunched field, with eight racers all within a second.
Ligety hammered down a course he knows so well, staying out of the grooves in the soft snow due to the warm weather and building more and more speed. He even dragged that surgically repaired wrist on the snow around several turns, because it's something he's always done and he wasn't going to let the injury get in the way of his performance.
When he crossed the finish line in the lead, the crowd erupted. Ligety pumped his ski pole, knowing his time would be difficult to match.
Next up was Hirscher, who made several mistakes.
Then Pinturault, who wasn't as clean up top as Ligety.
And finally, Raich, the final skier of the day, who lost his lead early and struggled as he slipped to fourth.
It was Ligety's fifth giant slalom win in Beaver Creek. It also drew him closer to Hirscher and Pinturault in the overall GS race. Ligety has won the discipline four of the last five seasons.
"Hirscher and Pinturault, those guys are amazing skiers for sure," said the 30-year-old Ligety, who won gold at the Sochi Games in the GS. "Those guys are guys I love to watch ski. To get in front of them is always nice, especially being the old guy."
Hirscher leads the GS standings and is second in the overall race to Norway's Kjetil Jansrud, who won the downhill on the Birds of Prey course Friday and was runner-up in the super-G Saturday.
"If I want to have a chance against Kjetil, I have to be better than today," said Hirscher, who trails Jansrud by 172 points. "I have to win more races than Kjetil. Right now, he's the man to beat. I'm not in position."
This was certainly a solid weekend for Pinturault, who also finished third in the super-G.
"I'm really happy," Pinturault said before leaving to catch a plane.
American Tim Jitloff had a solid showing as he wound up ninth, while David Chodounsky finished 17th. Bode Miller didn't race this weekend as he recovers from back surgery. He hopes to return in time for the world championships in February at Beaver Creek.
Ligety had a rough showing in October during a season opening GS in Soelden, Austria, when he finished 10th in a race won by Hirscher. But Ligety cleaned up some technical issues, and it showed on his final run.
"I was confident to ski the way I wanted to," Ligety said. "It was a really fun day."
Now, the only name ahead of Ligety on the all-time GS list is Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, who had 46 wins.
Any chance of catching up to him?
"What he's done is pretty unattainable," Ligety said. "I would say Stenmark's thing is a pipe dream."
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