By Greg Needell
Alpine Race Consulting
FINALLY! Ted Ligety has won the big prize at a big race in the discipline that matters most to him. A long time ago, when Ted was considered a slalom specialist or a slalom talent by the Europeans and the others on tour, he came to us and told us that he wanted to and could be a viable World Cup GS skier. We, the staff, were a little hesitant in the spring of 2005 as we wanted him to establish himself more as a slalom guy on the World Cup. What we meant was to get deeper into the WCSL and be more bullet proof to falling out of the rankings if the GS experiment did not work out so well. Let's just say Ted was persistent and persuasive in his argument. And really that is when my job changed within the World Cup tech group to being a little more "Ted focused" and GS discipline focused.
Anyway, Ted worked very hard on his GS and branched out into DH as well to be focused on the Combined event too. Throughout the spring and summer his training volume was shifted toward GS a lot more. As well, Voelkl gave him a dedicated company serviceman and a new GS model that he and Jimmy Cochran helped design. Regardless, Ted's focus in training paid off in GS as he went off in Soelden, going from 64 start position to 8th at the finish. It was a great day for all of us and an indication of things to come. That season, I thought Ted was skiing the best GS in the world going into the Torino Games and he looked the part at the Olympic free ski in Sestriere. That one did not work out so well, but a few days later he won his first World Cup GS in Yong Pyong, South Korea.
Of course, the other outcome of all the focus in GS was that the slalom would eventually fall off. And it did. Many blame it on the switch to Rossignol but I really do not think that is it. I think more than anything it is that slalom is dominated by specialists and it is a different sport altogether at the World Cup level. Guys who do both really need to tip the scales one way or another toward GS or slalom to be able to be excellent at least in one of the two technical disciplines. Ted chose GS which was obviously the right one for him. Congratulations Teddy! You deserve it!
In yet another close race, Cyprien Richard (FRA) finished second behind Ted and continued to prove that he belongs right in the mix with Ted and should take the globe chase right down to the wire, along with Svindal who won the first run and narrowly missed another medal by .06 behind Schoerghofer.
And Phillip Schoerghofer got himself a bronze and truly saved the day for the Austrians. I have to give him a lot of credit in getting to the podium as all the weight of Austria was on him and Romed Baumann with Benni going down to an ACL tear in the Team event. Schoergi has been on fire lately and look for him to put some pressure on the top guys in Kranjska Gora and Lenzerheide at the end of the year.