December 05, 2015

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) That Marcel Hirscher finished first and Ted Ligety right behind him wasn't a big surprise.

Been like that for years: One wins, the other is runner-up.

That it was a super-G and not a giant slalom? Stunning.

The Austrian technical specialist who doesn't like high rates of speed on the course found just enough to win a World Cup event in snowy conditions Saturday. Hirscher, winner of four straight overall titles, earned his first victory in the super-G by finishing in 1 minute, 6.90 seconds on a shortened course.

Ligety charged into second, 0.33 seconds back, and American teammate Andrew Weibrecht took third. In all, four Americans placed in the top 11.

Hirscher doesn't compete in the downhill, saying he's intimidated by speed. It hardly showed Saturday.

''It is more difficult if you have really big jumps. Those are the things that make me a little bit scared,'' Hirscher explained. ''If it is like today, I just go for it.''

Still, this came out of nowhere. Hirscher said he's trained in super-G a total of only four days this season.

''I impressed me, too, and a lot of people as well,'' Hirscher said. ''It is an unbelievable result for me. I've trained so much in all the other disciplines, nearly nothing in super-G. That is a big surprise.''

Hirscher benefited from the constantly changing conditions. He was the fourth skier to hit the course and the snow was just lightly falling. Like always, he was attacking and in complete control.

Later, when some of the favorites were taking the hill - like Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal and his teammate Kjetil Jansrud, who went 1-2 in the downhill Friday - the snow picked up intensity and the bumps were even more difficult to see.

And even later, the sun peeked out again - just before Ligety took the course as racer No. 29.

Simply a strange weather day.

''That's a part of the game,'' said Svindal, who struggled and finished well back, ending his streak of three straight World Cup victories. ''As ski racers, you kind of know this can happen.''

Because of deteriorating conditions and low visibility, the start was moved to a lower spot on the hill. The change appeared to benefit giant slalom standouts such as Hirscher and Ligety.

''There were a couple of turns where you had the possibility to use GS turns,'' Hirscher said.

Hirscher's turns were precise, too. Consider this: His speed at one checkpoint up top was 14th fastest. At another near the bottom it was 46th.

''If you're as good of skier as Marcel is, and a couple things roll your way, it's easy enough to get on the podium,'' Ligety said.

Ligety felt right at home on this course. With good reason: He's won five World Cup GS races at this venue and a world title in the discipline last February.

Still, he knows he caught a break with the weather.

''It wasn't `sunny, sunny' for me, but it was brighter,'' said Ligety, who's from of Park City, Utah. ''When I was watching Aksel and Jansrud, it was a full blizzard for them. When I went, it was still snowing, but barely. Not full sun, but definitely beneficial.''

Same for Weibrecht, who is from Lake Placid, New York, and now has his first top-three World Cup finish. That pairs nicely with his Olympic medals in the super-G - bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Games and silver four years later in Sochi.

Another solid course report from teammate Travis Ganong, who was the second racer to take the course.

''Travis told me it's totally chargeable and super easy and just hammer it,'' Weibrecht said. ''That was the perfect advice.''

And, finally, he will no longer be asked when he will make it to a World Cup podium.

''I'm sick of fielding that question,'' said Weibrecht, laughing. ''To get that monkey off my back, where I don't have to field that question anymore, (is) unbelievable.''

Next up, a giant slalom Sunday. The favorites will, of course, be Ligety and Hirscher. Between the two, they've won the last six World Cup GS titles.

''Hopefully, me and Ted are in a position where we are having a big battle,'' Hirscher said.

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