American gets down Ligety-split
BEAVER CREEK – Holy difficult conditions, Batman.Like a super villain with his finger constantly on the trapdoor button, the Birds of Prey 2004 men’s World Cup slalom course was ruthless toward the American skiroes, along with many other ski racers, sending them falling and skidding toward doom.Perhaps doom is an overly-dramatic expression, but three of the first five Americans on course Sunday fell off before the finish line. The let down among the U.S. Ski Team’s leaders gave 20-year-old Ted Ligety the chance to strut his stuff, and Ligety turned a lot of heads in a tie for 15th – the best result of his career – with Sweden’s Johan Brolenius.”I skied how I knew I could ski. I just tried to get to the finish line because I knew if I crossed the finish line I’d be in the top-30,” said Ligety. “It was a good experience, and I got some great World Cup points. I’m still young, so it’s great just to get in there.”Bode Miller, the World Cup leader with 480 points, was the first man down, and for the second consecutive day he landed in the “Did Not Finish” category. Miller’s fault came a third of the way down the course. He straddled a gate with his skis, instead of skiing completely around it. Miller didn’t fall or ski off course; he didn’t even seem to flinch as he gracefully halted his run after the missed gate.
Miller’s weekend slump wasn’t so unfortunate, considering Herman Maier (second in World Cup points with 274) didn’t participate in the slalom, and Austria’s Michael Walchhofer (fourth in World Cup points with 224) also fell victim to the veritable trapdoor in the first round on Sunday.America’s Erik Schlopy, hero of Saturday’s giant slalom, also failed to finish, slightly tenderizing his knee in the process. And, James Cochran displayed some sleek racing before skidding off course.America’s Paul McDonald, wearing bib No. 70, took to the course four racers from the end of the first round. “He’s a great racer. He has a great chance here,” said Cochran.McDonald, the reigning NCAA slalom champion, placed 31st, Though he knew he hadn’t qualified for the final round, he had one of the most positive finishes of the weekend with a huge grin and an energetic display – not to mention the fact that he moved up 39 spots in the start order
“I was psyched for 31st … mostly. I was aware that guys were striking from the back (of the pack). I talked to Ted Ligety, and he told me to just go hard and go for it,” said McDonald.Ted’s turningWhen Ligety crossed the finish line in the first round he wasn’t sure about his run. He had no clue that he had crossed in 11th place out of the first 38 competitors or even close due to a choppy and tough run. Ligety looked up at the scoreboard, saw the high marks and charged the crowd on his Volkl skis, spinning around in circles with his right hand on the ground until he completed a spiral of celebration.”It was pretty bumpy. It didn’t feel that smooth, but I just tried to stay close,” Ligety said after his first run.
Ligety’s second run was speedy up top, as he led the field by 0.23 seconds at the split, but he lost time toward the bottom, and finished in sixth place with a combined time of 1 minute, 52.75 seconds.”I made a few mistakes in the flats, so that cost me a little time. But, I saw the finish line, and I said, ‘I’m just going to go through the finish line. I’m just going to make it,'” said Ligety. “Hopefully in the next race, I’ll move up a little more from where I am now because I knew I could have done it today, it just didn’t happen.”Miller and Schlopy’s misfortunes didn’t sway negatively on Ligety’s performance. He kept his head in his race and came out as the top finisher for the U.S. Ski Team Sunday.”You can’t think about all those other guys going out. You just have to ski your own race,” said Ligety. “I would have liked to have carried the (American) flag a little better, but oh well.”The Americans head to Europe for races in France and Italy this weekend.Vail Colorado