Ligety not the only American shining in GS |

Ligety not the only American shining in GS

Melanie Wong
David Chodounsky, of the United States, keeps it tight against a gate while ripping through Russi's Ride during his second run of the Birds of Prey giant slalom race on Sunday at Beaver Creek. Chudounsky, 30, recorded his first World Cup points in GS with a 17th-place finish.
Justin Q. McCarty | Special to the Daily |

BEAVER CREEK — Sunday’s giant slalom race at Beaver Creek capped off a successful weekend for the men’s U.S. Ski Team.

Ted Ligety kept his team and his fans biting their nails throughout the race, coming from behind to secure a victory. It was a marked change from the last few years, when he’s secured a comfortable win mostly in the first round.

Ligety, who is nursing a broken hand, finished the first round in fourth place, 0.25 seconds behind the leader.

“It was a mediocre run for sure,” said Ligety between rounds. “I’m used to being a lot cleaner than I was that whole run, so hopefully I can improve on that. (The time difference is) not a whole lot to make up, and as I’ve shown in the past, I can be very fast on this course. I hope I can put down one of those runs again.”

Ligety did just that, putting down a near perfect run the second time around, launching him decisively into first place. It was his fifth World Cup win at Beaver Creek.

Breakout for Chodounsky

However, Mr. GS wasn’t the only American who had an extremely good day at Birds of Prey. Usually a slalom skier, David Chodounsky, who had been racing Nor-Am and European Cup races until now this season, had a breakout race, landing himself in 17th place.

Chodounsky, 30, started the race in the unfavorable 66th position, but he hopped straight to 29th place after his first run. At the finish area, he was cartwheeling his poles in excitement — but things were just going to get better for Chodounsky after the flip.

He was all smiles after his final run, getting cheered to the finish line by a home crowd and his technical teammates. He even spent a few runs on the hot seat, reserved for the current leader. This was his second GS start ever and his first time to score World Cup giant slalom points, making Sunday’s race a landmark in Chodounsky’s career.

“I knew I had a shot here making it into the (top) 30, but I wasn’t expecting it,” said Chodounsky, grinning. “I was just going to come out and have fun. The second run was such a smooth course. It was so much fun, arcing wherever I wanted to. I took advantage, and I’m really happy.”

American skier Tim Jitloff, who is no stranger to the giant slalom scene, came in with a ninth-place finish, his best result at Beaver Creek.

Jitloff has had a handful of top 10 World Cup finishes, including a 10th-place giant slalom result at Beaver Creek in 2011. In the first round, he lost time at the top but charged the bottom to advance.

His second run was going smoothly until a slight bump at the final Red Tail Jump slightly derailed him.

“It wasn’t anything dramatic, but enough to knock a few tenths off and make me fall behind,” said Jitloff, adding that he hopes to continue building momentum in upcoming races. “I believe. If it’s not gonna happen today, it could happen at Are (Sweden, next weekend), or it could happen at Worlds.”

Tough luck

Other U.S. Ski Team members suffered more disappointing endings. The race ended in an unfortunate DNF for the U.S.’ Mark Engle, who was enjoying a smooth run until he hit a gate on the bottom third of the course. The impact sent him spinning onto his side, although he was able to get up and ski off the course himself.

Jared Goldberg had some ragged turns near the top of the course, costing him precious time that kept him out of the second round.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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