BEAVER CREEK - Could this be the year that American Ted Ligety brings home the World Cup overall title?
Ligety thinks it could happen, and one of his biggest competitors for the championship - Aksel Lund Svindal - thinks so, too.
"That's been a goal of mine for a while - to try to be a contender for the overall - and you know I haven't really pieced together a streak like a lot of other guys have," Ligety said. "I'm one of the only guys that's been top 10 in the overall standings for 5-6 years in a row, but just never had a streak (like some other guys have) ... so hopefully I can try to have one of those this year and be closer and then we'll see."
Ligety finished 24th in downhill training Thursday, but downhill isn't Ligety's specialty. He's a giant-slalom machine with 12 World Cup wins in the discipline (plus a World Championships win in 2005), with the most recent being at Soelden, Austria, in October. He's been trying to pick up his pace elsewhere and succeeded this past weekend with a fourth-place finish in super-G at Lake Louise, Alberta.
Ligety was 22nd at the Birds of Prey downhill in 2011 and did not finish the Beaver Creek super-G both in 2010 and 2011. He won giant slalom here, however, both in 2010 and 2011.
After Thursday's training run, Ligety said Friday really could be anybody's race.
"It's tough to predict on the training runs. I'd say with Aksel winning the training run today, and I'm sure he was going half-speed, I think he'll be tough to beat - especially based on his form in Lake Louise - so I mean, he's definitely the favorite. As always in downhill, I think there's a lot of different guys that can get in there."
Ligety thinks he has a good shot at making the top 15, and potentially even top 10 if he really puts down a good run, he said.
"Hopefully I can try to do as well as I did in Lake Louise. This is a better hill for me than Lake Louise is, but it's also a difficult hill where it's easy to make mistakes," Ligety said. "I'm looking forward to it and hopefully I can put a good run together."
With super-G on Saturday and giant slalom on Sunday, Ligety has two more opportunities to go big in Beaver Creek. He hopes to be on the podium for super-G, but would be happy with a top 10 finish. As for giant slalom, Ligety wants the win.
"But I'd be satisfied with the podium, I guess," he said.
'I'm skiing well'
With Soelden over a month ago, Ligety said the momentum from that giant slalom win is pretty much gone because it was so long ago.
"I wouldn't say I have momentum," Ligety said. "I'm skiing well, so I mean, that's momentum in itself, but yeah it's tough to keep and get momentum in ski racing."
Ligety said his slalom has been "hit or miss," so that's a discipline he'll be focusing on this season.
"It can be really good and it has been good, but it's pretty fragile at times," Ligety said. "So hopefully I can get it to a point where I can finish more consistently and finish consistently in the top 10."
Svindal, of Norway, said Wednesday that Ligety is skiing well and could fight for the overall this year. And Ligety feels the same way about Svindal.
"Aksel's probably the main competitor right now, just with how well he's skiing," Ligety said. "It'll be interesting to see how well he gets his (giant slalom) going. He wasn't all that spectacular in Soelden, but Soelden's sometimes kind of an anomaly because it's pretty early in the season."
In the race for the overall title, Ligety is also keeping his eyes on Ivica Kostelic, of Croatia, and Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, who was the overall champion last season. Ligety isn't sure Hirscher can keep up the same pace again, though.
"I think, honestly, it's going to be very tough for him to replicate what he did last year," Ligety said. "I mean, nine wins in just slalom and giant slalom is pretty phenomenal and it's going to be hard to have that kind of season for him, but I think he could do a lot better in Super G this year as well so I think he's one of the guys to beat."
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.