Ted Ligety's shock super-G world victory will not be his last appearance on the podium here, the US skier vowed Wednesday, as his win gave hope to a US team hurt by the abrupt exit of star Lindsey Vonn.
The 28-year-old Ligety, who has only once made it on to the World Cup podium in super-G -- back in 2009 -- turned in a near-perfect run to pip a handful of pre-race favourites, including Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway who eventually took bronze.
His win, on the back of US teammate Julia Mancuso's third place in the women's super-G, sets the US team up nicely to sweep the medal table despite the loss of Vonn, who ruptured knee ligaments in a horrific crash on Tuesday and has been ruled out of the rest of the season.
"I knew I had a good chance coming in because my super-G so far this year has been pretty good so I knew I had a pretty good chance of a medal," Ligety said.
"But to win was definitely a surprise," said the giant slalom (GS) specialist, who was visibly moved as the US anthem rang out over the finish area where he stood on the top step of the podium.
"I felt like I skied clean the whole way... I knew that I had the ability, and if I had the confidence to link clean turns I could be fast."
With one gold medal around his neck, Ligety has no plans to take it easy in the next world championships races.
"GS this year has been going fantastic so I'd be pretty disappointed if I didn't get a medal there," said the American, who leads the World Cup rankings in that discipline.
"My combined so far this year has been good," he added of Monday's event mixing slalom and downhill.
"I haven't finished them but otherwise I've been fast and in medal positions in everything I've done, so I think I have a decent chance there of getting a medal."
The US team came into the world championships without star Bode Miller, who has been out all season, before it lost favourite Vonn on the first day of racing.
"It's definitely tough losing those teammates who have been so good over so many years and really carry the flag for the US," Ligety acknowledged.
"But it's an individual sport too, you're out there competing for yourself," he said of keeping his focus.
Svindal, having won a bronze medal to match his girlfriend Mancuso's, chuckled over "the worst result I had in super-G this year".
"But on a day like today I'm very happy with it," the World Cup super-G leader said after taking his seventh world championship medal.
"Ted skied incredibly, he really earned it... he took risks the whole way."
Another sensation Wednesday came from Frenchman Gauthier de Tessieres, who stepped in to race at the last minute when teammate Johan Clarey was ruled out of the championships.
"It's a crazy story. The team decided not to nominate me for the world championships, then Johan Clarey had some trouble with his back... so they called me and I'm here," said the 31-year-old, whose only World Cup podium so far has been a giant slalom third place in 2008.
"I didn't expect to race, I didn't train," he said, still in awe.
"I don't think I realise yet what's happened... A few days ago I was still at home, and never would have imagined I'd be up there with Ted and Aksel."