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Ted Ligety handed the US team the boost they needed after losing starlet Lindsey Vonn to injury with a shock victory in the men's super-G at the World Ski Championships here on Wednesday.
Just a day after Vonn's season was brought to a premature halt when she ruptured knee ligaments in a horror crash in the women's super-G, Ligety's perfect mix of accuracy and aggression saw him pip a handful of pre-race favourites.
The 28-year-old clocked 1min 23.96sec down the 1.8km-long Planai course, with late French call-up Gauthier De Tessieres taking silver at 0.20sec, and Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway claiming bronze, a further 0.02sec adrift.
"I'm really happy," Ligety beamed, saying he had not dwelt on Vonn's crash. "You can't let those races affect you. It's too bad for Lindsey."
The result was "pretty crazy", he said. "I was trying not to slide any turns. I couldn't really see the snow that well.
"I had a good chance coming in because my super-G so far this year has been pretty good. I knew I had a pretty good chance of a medal but to win was definitely a surprise."
It was, on paper, a startling result for Ligety, a giant slalom specialist with not a single World Cup super-G victory to his name in 10 seasons on the global ski circuit.
His sole podium in the event came on the notorious Bellevarde piste in Val d'Isere in 2010.
But the Planai course here was not anywhere in the same category as that, although there was a tricky roll six gates from the end that ensured many skiers were 'bumped' into losing valuable time by skiing wide on the next gate to compensate.
Ligety, with his familiar low, crouched racing position, mastered the slope magnificently as he touched speeds of 83kph, and importantly maintained his control through the final, testing roll to give himself a clean line into the finish.
It bodes well for Ligety's medal hopes in the giant slalom and combined events, the American is the reigning world champion in the former and 2006 Olympic gold medallist in the latter.
It was also a top result for De Tessieres, called up to replace the injured Johan Clarey in the French team at the last moment.
"It's difficult to anaylse," said De Tessieres. "Five days ago they called me to say I was not qualified.
"Now I'm here. I've had no time to think. My coach told me it was destiny."
Norwegian colossus Svindal saw his bid to add the world title to his Olympic crown slip away within sight of the finish, a horrendous error going wide into the final schuss losing him valuable tenths of a second.
Svindal, who already has four gold medals to his name (super combined (2), giant slalom and downhill), started the race as outright favourite, having won three of the four super-G races on the World Cup tour this season, including the last two.
But he said it was not a massive surprise that Ligety had won.
"I knew I had to take a big risk because Ted had a perfect run and also took risk and pulled it off the whole way. I tried to do the same, I was almost as fast as him but had some problems in the last gate," Svindal said.
"It wasn't that big of a surprise because he was fourth in the first two super-Gs this year and start number 10 was a good set-up for him.
"It's a good course for him. He's the best giant slalom skier in the world and there's a lot of GS-like turns there."
Defending world champion Christoph Innerhofer of Italy, who also won on the Planai slope here at the World Cup finals last year, finished in seventh at 1:25.05, 1.09 sec off the pace.