Ligety third, Miller fifth in slalom
WENGEN, Switzerland ” Jean-Baptiste Grange confirmed his status as a rising star Saturday, winning the slalom to match Jean-Claude Killy as the only skiers to win two different races on the Lauberhorn course in the same year.
The 23-year-old Frenchman won for the second time in two days, opening up a lead on the first leg of a foggy and snowy slalom and then easily holding off Jens Byggmark in the second to finish with a combined time of 1 minute, 34.81 seconds.
Byggmark was 0.80 seconds behind in second place while Ted Ligety was third, another 0.09 seconds back. Bode Miller finished fifth.
With his super-combi victory Friday, Grange matched Killy’s 1967 victories in the Lauberhorn downhill and slalom. Marc Giradelli also won two races here in 1989, but they were both downhills.
Ligety, who posted the fastest leg of the day to jump from 17th to finish third, said Grange did not make mistakes.
“Unless you’re skiing like Grange, it almost takes as much luck as it takes skill to win a World Cup race,” said Ligety, who has won one giant slalom race in addition to his gold medal in the combined at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
“I’ve been having so much trouble finishing, it has kind of gone to my head at times,” said Ligety, who has gone out in five races this season. “But I knew I have been skiing really fast and in training it’s been awesome. I knew I had to throw the hammer down to move up in the second run.”
Miller also gained ground with a strong second leg, climbing from 15th.
It was Miller’s best finish in a World Cup slalom since winning at Sestriere in Italy on Dec. 13, 2004 ” the season he became the first American to win the overall title in more than two decades.
“It doesn’t really surprise me at all,” Ligety said of Miller rediscovering some of the form that led him to five World Cup slalom wins between 2002 and 2004. “Bode Miller is probably one of the most talented ski racers ever.”
Miller is hoping to repeat his win from last year Sunday on the downhill course, where he has had some impressive training runs during the week.
A victory would give Miller 27 World Cup wins, matching Phil Mahre for the most by an American.
Grange, a slalom specialist, will not compete in the downhill Sunday, but his two victories show how quick his ascent has been. Before the season, he had never reached a World Cup podium. He won his first race ” a slalom ” in Alta Badia, Italy, last month and is currently leading the World Cup slalom standings.
Grange was glad to see Miller finish well in the slalom.
“That pleases me a lot, because Miller influenced me a lot in how I ski,” Grange said. “I tend to ski directly at the gates. But we shouldn’t go too far (with the comparison). He tends to let his body lean back. I never was a good glider, but I still have the chance to improve.”