Hirscher turns in fast final run to beat Ligety

By Pat Graham

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Dec. 4 2011 3:26 p.m. MST

From left on the podium, second place finisher Ted Ligety, first place finisher Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, and third place finisher Fritz Dopfer, of Germany, celebrate together at the men's World Cup giant slalom ski competition, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, in Beaver Creek, Colo.

Alessandro Trovati, Associated Press

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Marcel Hirscher of Austria turned in a blazing final run to overtake Ted Ligety and win a World Cup giant slalom on Sunday.

Hirscher finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 38.45 seconds, holding off Ligety by 0.16 seconds. Fritz Dopfer of Germany was third for his first podium finish.

Ligety held a slim 0.21-second advantage after a flawless opening run, but he couldn't duplicate the performance on his final pass. Ligety, who won the GS at this venue last season, made a big bobble near the end that cost him valuable time.

"I was a little bit soft with my turn, instead of being confident," he said. "I'm not disappointed. But I'd be much happier if I had won."

Ligety's tiny mistake opened the door for Hirscher, who had a smooth and steady run to earn his fourth World Cup win.

"It's great because to be Mr. GS is for me very important because in Austria, Ted is unbreakable," Hirscher said. "It's a pretty big success for me to beat him today. But we'll see. I think Teddy will be back."

And with a little revenge on his mind, especially after losing on the closest thing the Americans have to a home hill.

The skiers will return to the Birds of Prey hill Tuesday for another giant slalom, the first of three events — including a women's super-G race on Wednesday — moved to this location because of a lack of snow in Val d'Isere, France.

An advantage for Ligety?

"We all have a little more information on how the hill is running," Ligety said. "Everyone is going to be making a little adjustment."

Bode Miller had a ragged first run and didn't make the top 30. His go-for-broke approach caused him to make a huge mistake early, costing him valuable time. Even more, he tweaked his back in that section, which threw him off the rest of the way as he finished 3.34 seconds behind Ligety.

"A little tweak," Miller said. "It was enough that my leg felt really weak for a while. I kept chattering on that left foot, which didn't help. I didn't need that added on to everything else. Just a misjudgment."

Miller hasn't been training much for the giant slalom, electing to focus on the speed events. It paid off with a downhill win on Friday, but hurt him Sunday.

On those rare occasions when Miller has squeezed in some GS runs, it's been on icy conditions. So his setup was off for this type of course, since the snow was more grippy and aggressive.

His day done early, Miller's plan was to head over to nearby Vail and take a few runs in order to get used to this type of snow conditions to prepare for Tuesday.

Ligety looked effortless in his opening run, kicking up little snow in his wake as he carved through the course. His easygoing form is why he's one of the elite GS skiers in the world.

It's an enviable form.

"His style is such that it doesn't demand a lot of risk. He gets so much done above the gate, his turns have a nice flow to them," Miller said. "He fixes a lot of those mistakes before they happen. It's a real good way to ski."

Lately, Ligety has found himself in the middle of a spat with International Ski Federation over changes to the GS skis set to go into effect next season.

Ligety is upset over the fact the FIS is altering the hourglass shape of the skis.

Already so dialed in with his Head equipment, it could take away some of Ligety's built-in advantage. He's been lashing out at skiing's governing body, even saying the changes will ruin his discipline.

"It's such a ridiculous rule change that makes no sense safety-wise or evolution of the sport-wise. It can't go through," Ligety recently said. "I'm living my life as if it's not on the horizon."

He rebelled again Sunday, wearing a black "censored" sticker on his goggles strap as a protest over a rule limiting the size of logos on equipment.

"I feel if you're one of the leading guys, you should stand up for what you believe in," said Ligety, who captured the season-opening GS in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 23.

So dominant has Ligety been that his competitors are even studying video of him for tips. Dopfer is taking that approach in order to help close the gap.

On Sunday, Dopfer was in awe of just being on the podium, especially when it looked as if he might be bumped down to fourth. Austria's Benny Raich was skiing so well before making a late mistake and veering off the course.

"This was a big surprise," Dopfer said at a news conference. "(Ted) is like a role model for me in GS. It's just amazing to watch him and be on the podium together with him. It's just crazy."

Just then, Ligety leaned over a table and responded, "Thanks, dude."

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