Created on Saturday, 12 January 2013 Written by GRAHAM DUNBAR,AP Sports Writer
ADELBODEN, Switzerland (AP) — Ted Ligety won a duel with Marcel Hirscher in a World Cup giant slalom Saturday for a career-best fourth victory of the season in his specialty event.
The 28-year-old American skied cleanly in the fast-fading light to take the victory after first-run leader Hirscher of Austria made a mistake on the dark slope. Ligety was second after the first run, but finished 1.15 seconds ahead of runner-up Fritz Dopfer of Germany in a combined time of 2 minutes 28.67 seconds.
"I was definitely gifted it by Hirscher today because he would have beaten me by a good margin," Ligety said. "But I have gifted him a lot of races in the past also. I guess that's ski racing."
Ligety, who earned his 15th career World Cup victory — all in giant slalom — is third in the overall standings.
He celebrated with a small punch of his left fist after taking the lead on a course where he had never finished in the top three. He watched Hirscher's run on the giant screen in the finish area.
Hirscher, who won the GS at Val d'Isere, France, where Ligety placed third, led at every check point until losing his racing line a few gates from the finish and placed 16th.
"I took too much risk," said Hirscher, who won the only GS race that Ligety failed to claim this season, at Val d'Isere, France. "For 99 percent of the race, I was extremely fast. It's great to see that I can beat Ligety."
Felix Neureuther of Germany was 1.24 back in third. It was the first time Germany had two men on a World Cup podium outside their country.
"It's a special day for the team," Neureuther said. "Ted is for sure the best GS skier in the last few years and he will be in the next ones."
Dopfer and Neureuther were eighth and ninth fastest, respectively, in the morning and enjoyed better racing conditions than Ligety as the sun slipped behind the mountains.
Hirscher retained his lead in the overall World Cup standings. The defending champion is 26 points ahead of Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who placed sixth on Saturday.
Ligety was rewarded for his acrobatic recovery in the morning run when he had skied wide at the top of the steep final slope.
"I made one really big mistake before the pitch right here and was out in the powder," Ligety told The Associated Press after the first leg.
American teammate Robby Kelley scored his first career World Cup points, finishing 23rd, 4.29 behind Ligety.
Six of the 30 second-run starters failed to complete the undulating course, which tests racers' balance on rolling terrain used as cow pastures in the summer.
On a difficult day for home racers, Olympic GS champion Carlo Janka skied out early in the first run. World Cup debutant Elia Zurbriggen, whose father Pirmin was an Olympic and overall World Cup champion in the 1980s, lost a ski and also failed to finish.
Ligety joined an illustrious winner's list at the Adelboden giant slalom, which was one of the first World Cup races to be held in January 1967.
"It's one that all of our ski heroes have won," said Ligety, who follows greats like Jean-Claude Killy, Ingemar Stenmark, Alberto Tomba and Hermann Maier.