By Philip Hersh, Tribune reporter
10:01 AM EST, February 15, 2013
Ted Ligety took his place among Alpine skiing greats when he won Friday's giant slalom at the World Championships in Schladming, Austria.
Ligety became the first man to win three titles in a single worlds since the legendary Jean-Claude Killy of France took four in 1968, when the Olympics counted as the worlds.
It was the second straight giant slalom world title for Ligety, 28, of Park City, Utah, the 2006 Olympic champion in the Super combined.
Ligety won the Super-G and Super combined earlier in this world meet.
"If you want to call me the King of Schladming, that's cool with me,"Ligety replied to a reporter who asked if he could be thus crowned. "This has been a crazy, unbelievable week - definitely far exceeded my expectations. to win three gold meals here is awesome and to join some of the legends of the sport.
"There was definitely a lot of pressure coming into the GS as the defending champion. With those (earlier gold medals) it definitely added a lot of extra pressure."
That pressure will only increase in the year before the Sochi Olympics. After two Olympics in which he flew under the radar as Lindsey Vonn (2010) and Bode Miller (2006) got all the attention, the spotlight will fall on Ligety, especially since Vonn will spend the next eight months rehabbing from major knee surgery, and Miller took this season off.
"This definitely sets the bar high,"Ligety said. "I don’t know if it is repeatable. Hopefully, I can just maintain the same level of skiing and give myself good chances there (Sochi).
"Its attainable. But ski racing is such a tough sport in a way that it is tough to replicate these kind of wins. It is so far from guaranteed, not like running, where all you have got to do is run. There are so many more variables. The hill changes every single guy."
In the giant slalom, he built a massive lead (1.30 seconds) after the first run.
"Amazing first run," former Italian ski star Alberto Tomba told EuroSport. "Second run, he had time to drink coffee."
The coffee - and Ligety - almost spilled as his second run got a liittle wild, with his left ski flying nearly akimbo midway through the 75 seconds of racing.
"I don't know how he stayed on his feet," a EuroSport commentator said.
He won by a two-run margin of .81 over Marcel Hirscher of Austria, whose second run had sent a huge crowd into ground-shaking roars and stomps of delight that lingered when Ligety moved into the start house as the final skier of the contenders.
"Starting 30th, it was pretty bumpy, and the light was pretty flat,"Ligety said. "I had to charge. I was making mistakes, but that is ski racing. I was happy I had the comfort I did after the first run."
Ligety is the first U.S. skier to win three medals at a single worlds. His four career golds match Miller as most by a U.S. skier.
One of Killy's wins was in a "paper race," since the combined was not a separate event at that time. Its results were determined by adding the times from the individual downhill and slalom.
But Killy had one fewer medal chance in 1968, since Super-G was not yet part of the ski program.