BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - Austrian slalom maestro Marcel Hirscher was left purring with admiration after being outperformed by defending champion Ted Ligety in the giant slalom at the alpine ski world championships on Friday.
Though Hirscher led after the opening leg and produced “a pretty awesome run” in the afternoon, he was beaten into second place by Birds of Prey specialist Ligety, who the Austrian described as outstanding.
Ligety has now won five consecutive giant slalom races on the plunging layout and three-times overall World Cup champion Hirscher had to settle for silver, his third medal at these world championships.
“Ted is skiing just brilliant, especially here at Beaver Creek down the Birds of Prey,” Hirscher said after finishing 0.45 seconds behind the American in the two-run technical event.
“If you can win five times in a row giant slalom races (here), then you definitely feel at home on this course. I am super happy. I gave my personal 100 percent and I even can’t ski one-hundredths of a second faster.”
Hirscher had been the favorite heading into the giant slalom after winning four of five World Cup races this season and finishing third in the other.
He led Ligety by 0.24 seconds after the morning leg, then watched from the start hut as the American scorched down the piste in the afternoon with a sizzling run of one minute, 18.74 seconds that no one else came within a half second of matching.
“For me, it was really important to know that Ted had an outstanding run so it was definitely easier for me to make a decision in the starting hut,” said the 25-year-old Austrian.
“I talked to myself and I thought, ‘Two chances — no medal or go for it 100 percent.’ I skied definitely 100 percent and gave everything. I had a pretty awesome run but Ted’s run was definitely outstanding.”
Hirscher, who earlier won gold in the super combined and team events at the 2015 worlds, will go into Sunday’s concluding slalom as the pre-race favorite and the reigning champion from Schladming two years ago.
“I have been training and racing at this altitude for two weeks and that takes a lot of energy,” he said. “But I have been fighting very hard, and I think I will be able to keep fighting hard for the slalom on Sunday.”
Editing by Gene Cherry