KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Finally, it was Ted’s turn.
Park City’s Ted Ligety was poised to do what, so far, most favorites have been able to do in the 2014 Olympics — deliver gold.
Unfortunately Friday was not the day that Ligety would do what Bode Miller, Hannah Kearney, Shaun White, Shani Davis and Heather Richardson could not.
“I choked, for sure,” said a candid and upbeat Ligety, who still has three other races in which to compete. “That’s disappointing. It would have been easy to get a lot faster, but it didn’t go that way.”
Part of the reason expectations were so high for Ligety is that he won the world championship in this event — along with two others — in a spectacular two weeks last winter. He's been on the podium three times with one win in the super combined.
The conditions were unusual with a warm morning, followed by a cool afternoon and unpredictable snow. All of the skiers expressed their own concerns with both the downhill course and the slalom course.
Skyline High graduate and first-time Olympian Jared Goldberg had the most popular characterization of the downhill course.
“It turned into basically water skiing,” he said. “Your skis are going every which way. You’ve just got to power through it.”
Ligety said the warm weather made the downhill course slower for those who skied later.
“The guys that started early had a bit of an advantage,” he said. “It just makes (the course) slower in the flats.”
On the slalom course, Ligety said he “respected” it too much.
“The snow was a lot better than I thought it would be,” he said. “And the course set was a lot better than I thought it would be. I just skied conservatively.”
He said the inspection indicated much more adverse conditions than there were when he skied.
“I could have gone way, way harder,” he said. “With the snow the way it was, and the course set was really easy. I skied way too conservatively, and that’s frustrating.”
Miller made similar mistakes, despite Ligety letting him know he should ski it harder than they initially believed.
“I think a lot of guys got thrown in the first 10 gates,” Miller said, “even when the course eased up and you could let it go, they’re kind of still guarding because it felt so sketchy. You never know on this snow where something’s going to catch your foot. Guys were hooking tips where they didn’t think they were going to and getting launched out of the course where they didn’t think they should have been."
"And there’s guys, like the way Ted and I skied it where we were kind of guarding the front of the ski a little bit, you just feel your speed it’s really brutal," Miller said. "You know you have to start taking risks, but you can’t really get a rhythm."
Ligety said Friday’s disappointment changes nothing for him heading into Sunday’s super-G.
“There are still a lot of events left,” he said. “There is still a lot of racing, and I’m still confident in my ability in the giant slalom, super-G and slalom, even.”
Sandro Viletta, Switzerland, won gold with a combined time of 2:45.20, while Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic earned silver with 2:45.54. Christof Innerhofer, Italy, ended up with bronze, earning a time of 2:45.67.
Miller led the U.S. skiers with a time of 2:46.84. Goldberg finished eleventh with a time of 2:47.29. Ligety ended up with a combined time of 2:47.39. Andrew Weibrecht didn’t finish the slalom course.
Goldberg said he was thrilled to be racing after watching his teammates compete for nearly a week.
“I’ve just been waiting to be able to race,” he said. “I feel really good on this hill, and I’m finally ready to put it down as hard as I could.”
He said he was happy with his performance, but confident that he could do better in his next race — the giant slalom next week.
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