Freud: OK, so is the overall possible for Ted now?
Way to go, Teddy Ball Game.
Sorry, I like that appellation better than Ted Shred, though I know Ligety had that nickname even before his headgear line came out.
Ted Ligety wins the World Alpine Ski Championships super-G in Schladming, Austria. I did not see that coming.
I have always thought Ligety’s pursuit of the overall title to be a Quixotic one. Mr. Giant Slalom? You bet. He’s got 15 wins in that discipline, plus he’s the defending champ at Worlds from 2011. (A WASC or an Olympic gold – combined in 2006 in Italy, which Ligety has in his collection – does not count as a World Cup win.)
I’ve had no doubts about his skills or his desire. It’s always been his body when it comes to the overall. When you stand in the press corral, you see these speed guys up close and they’re huge. Their legs are like tree trunks – Hermann Maier, Didier Cuche, Bode Miller, Aksel Lund Svindal, etc.
Ligety just doesn’t have that body. The U.S. Ski Team’s website lists him at 5-foot-11 and 190, and I sort of doubt that last figure. (By comparison, Miller’s 6-foot-2 and 210.)
But Bode’s career arc may light a path for Ligety. If we open our “history” books, it’s important to remember that Miller started primarily as a technical skier. Four of his five wins in slalom, yes, slalom came before Miller cracked the nut that was speed racing with a downhill win up in Lake Louise, Alberta, in late 2004. (Bode won the Birds of Prey downhill for the first time one week later.)
It’s the same story with Miller and GS – six of nine GS victories before a speed win. Want an interesting tidbit? Bode won the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria, in 2003 and 2004, the latter being just before his breakout in downhill and super-G. Ligety would be the most recent American man with a Soelden repeat last fall and in 2011.
Ligety’s 28, while Miller was 27 when he first started making the top step of the podiums in speed events.
Nothing’s guaranteed by history, but looking at Ligety’s super-G results this season, Wednesday’s win should not have been as a complete surprise as I made it out. He was fourth in Lake Louise, a course he does not like, fourth here and sixth at Kitzbuehel, Austria, the cathedral of skiing, last month. (Ski well in Kitzbuehel, and you’re good to go anywhere.) Along with leading the pack in GS, no surprise, Ligety is seventh in the super-G points in 2012-13.
Unless you’re Austria’s Marcel Hirscher who is shut-the-door dominant in slalom and would be the same in GS if it weren’t for Ligety, a racer needs three disciplines to contend for the overall.
Previous conventional wisdom was that Ligety’s path to the overall was stomping GS, doing a bit better in slalom and then picking up a few points in super-G and/or super-combined.
After Wednesday’s super-G win, Ligety’s path may be through the GS and speed events.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.