With Miller sidelined, Ligety leads US men in GS


VAL D’ISERE, France (AP) — Ted Ligety posted a blazing second run on Sunday to grab 10th place in a World Cup giant slalom in the French Alps that Bode Miller skipped to protect an ankle he injured playing volleyball.

Ligety made several crucial errors that cost him more than 2 seconds in the morning run on the icy Face de Bellevarde course, but stormed back to post the second run’s best time, 1 minute, 9.86 seconds, and finish 0.83 seconds away from a second podium-finish in as many days.

Marcel Hirscher claimed his first World Cup victory, winning ahead of Massimiliano Blardone of Italy and Austrian Benjamin Raich in a combined time of 2:16.28.

The U.S. team said Miller didn’t want to risk aggravating the injury by competing in the GS. The two-time World Cup champion is expected to race four events next week in Italy, at Val Gardena and Alta Badia.

The team released a statement that said the 32-year-old Miller hurt his ankle in “dryland training.” Later, a team spokesman said the injury to his right occurred in a volleyball game with teammates.

Miller placed fifth in Friday’s super combined and ninth in Saturday’s super-G.

Ligety, of Park City, Utah, was 2.15 seconds off the pace after the morning run, but his all-out second run impressed U.S. coach Sasha Rearick.

“I’m really pleased with his performance in the second run,” Rearick said. “In the first run he made it to the bottom and in the second run he fought hard the whole way. I’m very pleased with his efforts. He is a worker from top to bottom.”

After his runner-up finish in Saturday’s super-G, Ligety was the only American in the top 10 of the overall standings, fifth with 281 points.

“I did pretty poorly first run. I probably made two and a half seconds of mistakes, but second run was better,” Ligety said. “It’s hard to really go hard down the face when it’s dark. I did OK and the top was good, but it’s still not a perfect day.”

Ligety, who trails leader Benjamin Raich by 29 points in the giant slalom standings, said he was looking forward to the upcoming GS scheduled in Alta Badia. He will not enter the super-G and downhill scheduled for Val Gardena.

“I have yet to have had two clean runs,” Ligety said. “Hopefully it happens in Alta Badia, I would really like to win that one.”

Rearick was not worried by Ligety’s mistakes and praised “his dynamic and balanced skiing.”

“He is going really fast, that’s why he is making mistakes right now.”

The 20-year-old Hirscher got his maiden win on one of the world’s most demanding courses.

“To finish first on such a difficult course and be congratulated by Benni (Raich) at the end, it’s just unreal,” Hirscher said of the skier he used to watch on TV when he was a kid.

Hirscher had earlier this week posted the best result of his career by finishing second in a super-combined behind Raich, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and former World Cup champion.

“Marcel has a great future,” said Raich, who overtook Carlo Janka of Switzerland for the overall World Cup lead. “I’m really impressed and proud of him. It was even more difficult for him after posting the best time of the first run.”

Blardone was 0.77 seconds off the pace, while Raich was 1.32 back.

Hirscher’s win capped an excellent weekend for Austria’s “Wunderteam,” following Raich’s triumph in the super-combined and Michael Walchhofer’s victory in the super-G.

Raich leads overall with 486 points, 26 more than Janka. The 23-year-old Swiss fell after a a few gates in the first leg on a hill where he clinched the giant slalom world title earlier this year. He also fell in the super-combined and skied out in the super-G.

“I don’t really look at the overall standings for the moment, but it’s important to score in each race,” Raich said.