Ligety, Hirscher face off with eye on ski worlds
- Published: 8/12/2012 at 01:46 PM
- Online news:
On-fire American Ted Ligety comes head to head with Austria's reigning overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher when the European leg of the international ski season restarts this weekend.
On-fire American Ted Ligety (pictured on December 1) comes head to head with Austria's reigning overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher when the European leg of the international ski season restarts this weekend. Ligety has already won the opening two giant slaloms this season with a staggering average winning time of 2.25 seconds.
After a pre-season start in Soelden before sampling Finland's Levi, the circuit moved Stateside, with races in Lake Louise, Canada, and Beaver Creek, in the United States.
The Val d'Isere leg of the International Ski Federation (FIS) calendar is dubbed the "Criterium de la Premiere Neige", and snowfall they have had aplenty in the upmarket French Alpine resort.
So much snow has fallen in the last week, with more heavy dumps expected on Friday and Saturday, that organisers have flicked the slalom to Saturday and giant slalom to Sunday, in the hope of running the former in snow if needs be.
One racer who arrives in Val d'Isere on top form is American Ligety, who has won the opening two giant slaloms this season with a staggering average winning time of 2.25 seconds, an enormous amount last seen back in the 1970s and a fine showing before the February 5-17 world championships in Schladming, Austria.
The giant slalom is widely considered the discipline requiring the most technical skill as skiers race down the mountain through a faster and more open course than in slalom, which requires the execution of many short, quick turns.
Ligety's mastery of the event so far this season has come despite his outspoken pre-season criticism of the changes in regulations to ski sizes.
Flying the US flag in the absence of convalescing and equally outspoken compatriot Bode Miller, Ligety has emerged as a potential candidate for the overall title after also impressing in the super-G.
His previous best overall finish was fifth place back in 2008, but Ligety, reigning world giant slalom champion, said: "Winning the overall has been a big goal of mine since I started ski racing.
"I think it's attainable, but with Aksel (Lund Svindal) skiing as well as he is, if he keeps that going, he's going to be tough to beat. It will be difficult, but I have a better chance this year than I have had in the past."
Norwegian Svindal is a real overall performer and the Olympic giant slalom bronze medallist who also claimed super-G gold and downhill silver on Whistler's slopes in 2010, has some form in Val d'Isere.
Second in the giant slalom in 2010, he also has five other top-10 finishes to his credit and will remain a real threat to podium wannabes on the weekend.
Hirscher will likely be eyeing his chances in the slalom rather than the giant given Ligety's masterful form in the former.
The 23-year-old Austrian won the 2011 slalom and the giant slalom title in 2009 here, while Ligety claimed the 2010 giant slalom and also won world bronze the year before.
"As you know, I love the slopes in France," said Hirscher, who said his victory in the NorAm giant slalom in Aspen and second place in Beaver Creek proved to be an exacting run-out of his equipment.
"We brought 600 kilos of equipment to the USA and used the time to test the best material for the coming races," he said.
Hirscher added: "The season somehow starts over again on European snow: the grounds require courses that are more turning. I'm ready for this. I am into harder and more abrasive slopes and tighter radii. I'm happy that my schedule is full."
Andre Myhrer, the Olympic slalom bronze medallist from Sweden won the first slalom of the season in Levi, so should also be in the running here.
But one big-name absentee will be home favourite Jean-Baptiste Grange, the reigning world slalom champion expected to make his comeback from a long-term knee injury but who has instead deferred that, complaining he did not feel 100 percent fit.
Grange has now set his sights on returning either at Madonna di Campiglia in Italy on Decembert 18 or more probably on January 6 in Zagreb.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency