Ligety triumph sets up Sochi medal tilt, Stoch jumps to World Cup lead
In St Moritz (SUI) on Sunday, US skier Ted Ligety enjoyed a convincing victory in the final World Cup grand slalom event before Sochi.
The American secured his 21st World Cup victory – 20 of which have come in this event – by a margin of 1.51 seconds, after building up a near-insurmountable lead in his first run, eventually posting a time of 2:38.75 to take first place well ahead of rival Marcel Hirscher (AUT). France’s Alexis Pinturault finished 0.18 seconds behind Hirscher to complete the podium.
Two-time world champion Ligety was satisfied at heading a one-two-three of this season’s leading giant slalom competitors, with all eyes now focused on what should be a thrilling race for gold in Sochi.
“That was a bumpy ride, it's so tough when you can't see anything, it's really tiring. I tried to make smoother, clearer turns and not worry about the distance so much,” he said.
“It was nice to get another good race in before Sochi and confirm where I am in giant slalom. Hopefully I can carry the confidence over the Olympics."
The three athletes who made the podium in St Moritz are all challenging at the top of the overall World Cup leaderboard. Hirscher sits at the summit with 955 points – leaping 58 ahead of Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who failed to finish in St Moritz. Pinturault occupies third place, while Ligety’s win confirmed his current fourth position.
World champion Kamil Stoch enjoyed a memorable weekend on the large hill in Willingen (GER), winning two events out of two and leaping to the top of the ski jump World Cup rankings.
The Pole set the tone on Saturday with jumps of 139.5m and 145.5m, scoring 263.2 points and finishing one point ahead of local favourite Severin Freund. Slovenia’s Jernej Damjan secured a third consecutive podium, totaling 258.5 points.
Stoch’s second victory, on Sunday, was even more impressive. His jumps of 147m and 145m gave him a total of 271.4 points - a commanding 13.5 points ahead of Freund, who again earned a deserved second place. Another Slovenian, Peter Prevc, had led after the first round but had to settle for third place.
The fine form of Japan’s Noriaki Kasai also caught the eye. Still competing at 41 and a recent winner in Bad Mitterndorf (AUT), the veteran finished fourth in both events.
Stoch was delighted with his showing: "These were exactly the jumps I was hoping for. It was a fantastic weekend for me,” he enthused. “I'm looking forward to good conditions and a great atmosphere in Sochi. I will do my best, but I can't make any promises to the fans.”
Stoch’s 11th World Cup win edged him 13 points ahead of Prevc in the overall standings, while Kasai’s consistent form sees him occupy third place, 175 points behind the leader.
Ski jumping at the Olympic Winter Games will commence with the normal hill competition this weekend, with the large hill event contested a week later.