KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Ted Ligety has created his own, unique way of skiing. And now, he's in pretty elite company.
Carving turns like nobody else, Ligety established a huge first-run lead and then comfortably held on to win the giant slalom at the Sochi Games on Wednesday, becoming the first American man to win two Olympic gold medals in Alpine skiing.
"To be able to throw it down in the event I had the most pressure in, and the event I was the favorite in — to be able to do that is awesome," Ligety said. "This was really the event that I wanted to win. ... I know where I stand in giant slalom."
Ligety won in a two-leg combined time of 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds.
Steve Missillier of France stood only 10th after the first run but had the fastest second leg to finish second, 0.48 behind. Alexis Pinturault, another Frenchman and one of Ligety's chief rivals over the past few seasons, was third, 0.64 behind.
Overall World Cup leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria finished fourth for the second consecutive Olympics in this event, 0.94 back, but will be the favorite for Saturday's slalom.
Ligety's first gold came in combined at the 2006 Turin Games as a 21-year-old — before he had ever won a World Cup race. At the 2010 Vancouver Games, though, he failed to win a medal.
So this was a career-defining moment.
Ligety was also a favorite in super-combined but finished 12th. Then he was an even more disappointing 14th in super-G last weekend.
"I knew I was the favorite coming into today and having struggled in Vancouver, having been a little bit of a lackluster Olympics so far up until today, I knew there was a lot of pressure on today and I really wanted to perform and ski the way I knew that I could ski," Ligety said. "To be able to perform and do what I wanted to do on skis and have it equal a gold medal is truly awesome."
The only other American to win two Olympic golds in Alpine skiing was Andrea Mead Lawrence, who took both the women's slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Oslo Games.
"To be able to be up there with some of the greats is really an honor," said Ligety, who is from Park City, Utah.
Four other American men — Bode Miller, Phil Mahre, Tommy Moe and Bill Johnson — have won one Olympic gold.
Ligety celebrated by twirling around in the finish area while still on his skis. The crowd realized he had won even before he crossed the line, and showered him with applause for the last few gates.