Ligety holds off French to win giant slalom gold

Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:59am EST
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By Martyn Herman

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - American Ted Ligety turned a relaxing mountain descent into a white-knuckle ride to gold on Wednesday when he held off two charging Frenchmen to claim the Olympic giant slalom title.

Ligety is the first American man to win two Alpine skiing golds following his super combined title in Turin in 2006.

"This is the event I wanted most," Ligety said. "It's the event that I've been putting so much pressure on myself to win, so to pull through is an awesome feeling. I'm super happy."

The 29-year-old world champion put nearly a second on his rivals in a smooth-as-ice first run through the gates on a crispy Rosa Khutor piste - and how he needed that buffer later.

French duo Steve Missillier and Alexis Pinturault roared into medal contention with their second runs before Ligety, the last of the top 30 to go, blasted out of the starting gate.

When the American slid sidewards almost to a standstill at one devilish part of the rutted and bumpy course the gold seemed in danger of slipping through his fingers.

Another mistake would have been calamitous but Ligety regained his rhythm to seal gold, 0.48 seconds ahead of silver medalist Missillier and 0.64 in front of Pinturault.

Ligety's victory gave the U.S. its first Alpine skiing gold of these Games while France celebrated its first medals of any color on the slopes of Rosa Khutor.   Continued...

Ted Ligety of the U.S. reacts after the first run of the men's alpine skiing giant slalom event in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach