KITZBUEHEL, Austria — Right in time for the Alpine skiing world championships, Ted Ligety has regained his speed in super-G — on a hill that hasn’t suited him in the past.
The American placed sixth in Friday’s race at Kitzbuehel, Austria, to bounce back from a disappointing showing at Val Gardena, Italy, where he finished 25th last month.
In four previous starts, Ligety had never been better than 22nd in the Austrian resort. His best result came 12 days before the super-G at the world championships, the first men’s race at the event in Schladming, Austria.
“This is definitely encouraging for the world champs super-G,” Ligety said. “Outside of Val Gardena, which is never going to be a good hill for me, all super-Gs have been pretty good.”
Ligety scored a career best second in a super-G at Val d’Isere, France, in 2009 but has been lacking consistency in the discipline.
This season marks a turnaround in fortunes. He just missed out on the podium twice by coming fourth in both Lake Louise, Alberta, and Beaver Creek, Colo., and came close to repeating that feat in Kitzbuehel.
“I feel like I skied very well,” Ligety said. “For this being most a glider’s hill ... I am very happy to finish in sixth.”
Ligety was 0.22 seconds faster at the final intermediate time than provisional leader Christof Innerhofer but lost speed in a section with a lot of turns before approaching the finish section.
“I was just a little bit too straight coming into the Hausberg and then had to hook it sideways,” he said. “I didn’t go as hard as I could have. That’s the most technical section of the course and that is where I should have been making up time.”
The mistake cost Ligety. He came 0.43 behind Innerhofer, who finished third. The race was won by Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway ahead of Matthias Mayer of Austria. Ligety trailed Svindal by 0.83.
“I lost too much speed there so it’s easy to be smooth,” he said. “If you watch Mayer, he went in really hard. It was a little sloppy-looking but it was way faster. I was a little bit too neat.”
U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick was full of praise for Ligety, calling his performance “a big job.”
“It’s by far his best result in a Kitzbuehel super-G,” Rearick said. “On a challenging course, he executed the plan right to the bottom.”
The 40 World Cup points helped Ligety closing the gap to overall leader Marcel Hirscher, who is skipping the speed races this weekend. The Austrian has 935 points, followed by Svindal with 847 and Ligety with 736.
The American can gain further ground on Hirscher in the downhill. Ligety’s best result in the classic race on the Streif course was 27th two years ago.
“The downhill trainings felt really good,” said Ligety, who practiced the run twice this week. “I have been second and fifth coming onto the flats. I like to believe that I have a chance for top 15 with how well my super-G is going and based on my splits in the training runs.”
Rearick said he was impressed with Ligety’s improvement in the gliding sections, which is even more crucial in a downhill.
“I am looking forward to see him execute the same kind of skiing tomorrow,” the coach said.
A good downhill result would boost Ligety chances to score useful additional World Cup points on Sunday. That day’s slalom results will be added to the downhill results to count as combined event.