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Alpine sking: Ligety the leader eyes hat-trick of golds

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Two world golds in the bag for Ted Ligety and his favoured giant slalom event is still to come, setting up the mouth-watering prospect of a hat-trick of titles for the affable American.

Ligety produced an impressive downhill run and allied that with a supremely confident slalom to win the super-combined event on Monday, a second gold at the World Ski Championships after his shock victory in the super-G on Wednesday.

His feat equalled absent teammate Bode Miller's double gold showing at previous worlds in 2003 and 2005. Incredibly, the last time Ligety won a super combined was in 2006 when he claimed Olympic gold in the Turin Games.

"It's been since 2006 since I won a combined and that's a long time," said the 28-year-old. "I've struggled in the event, and to finally win one in a world championships is awesome."

Miller has not skied this season as he recovers from a knee operation, but with his star billing definitely on the wane, his absence was not the highest profile or keenest felt by the US team.

That came in the form of speed queen Lindsey Vonn, who was a stand-out favourite here for double gold herself.

Alas, Vonn's world championship experience was short-lived as she sustained season-ending injuries in a horror crash in the women's opening super-G.

But up stepped Ligety to take the helm of the rocking US team, which now heads the medal table, Julia Mancuso having also chipped in with super-G bronze.

"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 after his super-G victory.

"But it's an individual sport too, you're out there competing for yourself."

The most positive element of Ligety's Schladming outing is that he now has the giant slalom to look forward to.

Ligety, who has a penchant for his own self-designed day-glo goggles and helmets, is defending world champion and positively rules the discipline at World Cup level, this season having won four of the five races in which he's competed.

"The giant slalom is a totally different race," he said of the discipline in which he has all of his 15 World Cup victories and 27 of his 34 other podium finishes.

"I've had two days of GS training in the last month. I need to focus in the next couple of days to get the precision back in that event.

"Hopefully, I can do that quickly and continue on the path I've been going in GS."

Ligety's all-round skills have understandably seen him emerge as a real contender for the overall World Cup title.

His best finish in the overall World Cup standings was fifth in 2008 and the American insisted that increased consistency in the slalom and his improving super-G performances would be the backbone of his push to top the podium.

"A big goal of mine is to win the overall title and I think the path to get there is being one of the best slalom skiers," Ligety said in Val d'Isere earlier this season.

The season has not been all plain sailing, however, with Ligety an outspoken critic of skiing's governing body, the International Ski Federation (FIS), over changes to skis the body claimed were made on safety grounds.

Ironic no less that he has emerged as the racer who best adapted to the modifications, but he argues that his grievance is that racers had no input on that decision to change rules he contends do not make ski racing safer.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130211/alpine-sking-ligety-the-leader-eyes-hat-trick-golds