Ligety brings deliverance for U.S. Ski Team
BEAVER CREEK — Thank you, Ted.
This was starting to get grim.
The U.S. was running out of chances for gold. There was the men’s GS on Friday — good chance — but Marcel Hirscher is a major pain in the tush, and we say that in the most respectful way with regard to the Austrian overall champion.
Yes, Mikaela Shiffrin has a real good chance of being golden in today’s women’s slalom. But did you want it all hanging on Shiffrin to win to keep the U.S.A. from being blanked in the gold-medal department for Worlds?
Sure, anything could happen in men’s slalom, but not really. The Americans still don’t have much of a shot in slalom. The U.S. Ski Team had to have a win either on Thursday or today.
Thanks, Ted. Go get ’em today, Mikaela.
Winning a great race
We can go through all the bits of history — first to three-peat in Championships GS, first American gold on home snow since Tamara McKinney on Feb. 2, 1989; he’s now the most decorated American skier in Worlds history — but what makes Ligety’s win tremendous was the race itself.
It was a great one. This was not Ted slamming the first run by 1 second or so, and then taking a victory ride in his second run.
There were five racers packed into .24-hundredths of a second going into the second run — Hirscher, Italy’s Roberto Nani, Germany’s Felix Neureuther, France’s Pinturault and Ligety.
And, to win the first red, white and blue gold, the script for Ligety had to be going through Hirscher, the three-time defending World Cup overall champion, the master of all things tech.
When Ligety dropped 5-hundredths of a second at the first interval, the groan from the crowd and the media was audible. The theme of the day and generally for GS races here is get the speed up top and keep it going down on the lower part of the course.
With Ligety running 26th in the flip, we had seen a lot of racers start to lose time and continue to see that green turn into red.
And then came the jets. After Screech Owl, Ligety found extra time. He found time in over Golden Eagle. He even found time in The Abyss. As the name indicates, you’re not meant to gain time in a place defined as “a deep or bottomless chasm.”
Yes, it’s the “intangible” of greatness, which Ligety does possess. This wasn’t his first comeback on this slope. He was fourth and 25-hundredths out in December in during the Birds of Prey GS behind Austria’s Benni Raich, Pinturault and Hirscher before that rally.
The biggest factor was Ligety’s experience. Now 30, he’s had 40 starts here, dating back to 2002, be they Nor-Ams, World Cups or Championships. Hirscher is turning 26 next month and Friday was his 15th start here.
It’s not home snow that won Ligety the race. After all, Ligety was defending a title won in Schladming, Austria. Having raced every flake of snow that’s fallen on this hill won Ligety the race.
Ligety’s first start here was a Nor-Am super-G, in which he finished in a tie for 21st. In 20th place was Cody Jenick, a local whom I covered when he raced for Battle Mountain, a local high school. (That’s a lark. Cody can wear that as a badge of honor. “I beat Ted Ligety way back when!”)
Unlike his competitors, Ligety has run this course enough to know how the extra ticks are gained, and the result is golden.
Thank you, Ted.
Meanwhile, back in the home country
Under the category of “You really can’t please everyone,” here’s the latest brouhaha in the Austrian press. You’d think that all in the Alpine Republic would be happy, given the way its national team has taken a 2-by-4 to the world here. (And I’m not Austria bashing. My last name is Freud.)
After all, “Land of Mountains,” the nation’s anthem, has been sung five times for five golds.
The thing is that “Land of Mountains” has undergone a lyrical change. Its fourth line used to be “You are home to great sons,” and has been changed to “You are home to great daughters and sons,” to reflect the times. This caused a great kerfuffle when it happened.
The thing is that old version — “great sons” only — is the anthem being played at the medal ceremonies here. Let’s make it clear that this is no way criticizing anyone involved on the American end of things — the Vail Valley Foundation, the kids singing beautifully, and everyone involved with the ceremonies. Everyone here got the old version. They’re singing the lyrics they got and so dutifully learned.
Back in Austria, however, this has renewed the debate over the anthem.
I vote for “daughters and sons,” simply on the basis that racers such as Anna Fenninger, Michaela Kirchgasser and Nicole Hosp are all “great daughters.”
It could be worse. In 1999, Australia’s Zali Steggall was a complete surprise winner in women’s slalom. She got her gold and then the wrong anthem completely was played. Whoops.
The good news is that all involved probably agreed on the words of the anthem played on Friday night.
Thank you, Ted.