- POSTED: 19 Feb 2014 19:55
US ski star Ted Ligety proved he is the unbeatable king of the giant slalom on Wednesday, sealing the second Olympic gold of his career in convincing fashion.
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia: US ski star Ted Ligety proved he is the unbeatable king of the giant slalom on Wednesday, sealing the second Olympic gold of his career in convincing fashion.
The 29-year-old reigning world champion clocked the fastest time of 2min 45.29sec after two runs down the Rosa Khutor course, finishing ahead of a pair of Frenchmen.
Steve Missillier, with only one World Cup podium to his name, was a surprise second at 0.48sec, ahead of Alexis Pinturault who took bronze, 0.64sec off the pace.
The 29-year-old Missillier, who was 10th after the first run, put in an impressive second run to take the lead and managed to maintain it as a number of favourites came down the course.
But Ligety had a huge 1.50sec lead on the Frenchman after the first run and was never in doubt for gold, even racing in 30th place down a deeply rutted course.
For the cool American, this is a second Olympic title after combined gold in Turin in 2006.
A four-time world champion -- including twice in giant slalom -- he has never had much Winter Games success in his preferred discipline, failing to finish in Turin and coming in ninth place in Vancouver in 2010.
Wednesday's medal also comes after a disappointing 12th place in the super-combined and 14th place in the super-G in Sochi.
"This is really awesome. This is the event I wanted the most. This is the event I have been putting so much pressure on myself to win, so to pull through is an awesome feeling," Ligety said after his win.
"I feel really lucky I had such a good first run because I didn't have to take all the risks in the second run."
For Missillier as much as everyone else, this Olympic silver came out of the blue.
"It's my first podium in giant and it comes in the Olympics, it could not be better. This is perfect. It's a big dream. I never thought I could do this," he said.
"To share this moment with Alexis is extra special."
Pinturault, 22, was equally proud to stand alongside his teammate on the podium as he grabbed his first major medal.
"What a memory this will be for me especially to share it with Steve. For us to do this for the sport is a dream."
Ligety, Pinturault and Austrian Marcel Hirscher had been widely seen as the favourites to win the race.
But Hirscher, the current World Cup leader in giant slalom, fell short of the podium by 0.30sec.
The slalom world champion, who had vowed before the race not to finish fourth again like in Vancouver, admitted afterwards: "I'm gutted."
"I gave everything, I tried... a lot of things didn't go my way or else I would be with the three on the podium. There's nothing else to say: three skiers were better than me today."
Fellow Austrian and Olympic downhill champion Matthias Mayer surprised with a strong sixth place.
But the 23-year-old's start met with controversy as the French team complained that an exception had been made to International Ski Federation (FIS) rules to let him race -- Mayer only competed in three giant slaloms this season, below the required minimum of five.
Germany's Felix Neureuther, long in doubt for the race following a car accident last Friday on his way to Sochi, managed an eighth place.
Defending Olympic champion Carlo Janka of Switzerland was 13th.
Wednesday's race took place on a crisp course in sunny weather that had little in common with the slushy conditions in the women's giant slalom on Tuesday.
Still the improved course was not enough for several top contenders to finish, with Norway's Kjetil Jansrud -- looking to add a third Sochi medal to his super-G gold and downhill bronze -- skiing out.
Other casualties included Italy's world bronze medallist Manfred Moelgg and compatriot Roberto Nani.