FOR MOST of this season, Ted Ligety, 21, has performed as if he represents the future of the U.S. ski team. For the past three weeks, however, he has skied as if he represents the present.
Ligety saved the U.S. men's team from a shutout at the Olympics when he won a surprise gold medal in the combined on Valentine's Day, beating out heavily favored Benni Raich of Austria and Bode Miller of the U.S. On Sunday, Ligety took another major career step when he scored his first World Cup victory, winning a giant slalom at Yong Pyong, South Korea. After a four-hour weather delay, Ligety won by .03 of a second.
Ligety had been flirting all season with victory, three times reaching the top three podium in slalom. "To be able to pull this off today in a GS is beyond words," Ligety said after the race. "I would have expected it in slalom, but in a GS is pretty stupid."
Not entirely stupid. At the Olympic giant slalom, Ligety was fastest midway through the first run but missed a gate and failed to finish the run. He also straddled a gate and was DQ'd while contending in the slalom, but that didn't change his status as the star of the men's team at the Games. After his last race in Italy, he said, "I think I've earned the right not to have to answer any more questions about Bode." There's little doubt about that, now.