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Alpine skiing: King Ted lets his skis lead the way


Triple gold-medallist Ted Ligety may have dominated the world championships but if he is to be believed, his skis do all the work and he just follows along.

The 28-year-old American breezed to a world title in the super-G and super-combined before successfully defending his giant slalom medal on Friday, making his runs down icy courses at speeds approaching 115kph look like a walk in the park.

But the cool exterior was deceptive, he insisted after snatching his third world championship gold in Schladming and fourth overall.

"I feel far from any control," said the keen freeskier, who enjoys doing some offpiste skiing in his free time, even when he is not racing.

"I don't necessarily dictate where the skis go, I just try to go with them. I feel that that's the way that they can be the best.

"It's an optical illusion if it looks like I'm in control," he added.

Despite bagging two gold medals already last week, the pressure was on for Ligety to make it a treble with a win in his favourite discipline.

Out of five World Cup giant slalom races this season, he has won four with one third-place finish in Val d'Isere.

"I came here to win the giant slalom, that was my main goal," said the US champion.

"That was the main pressure in my mind and probably a lot of people's minds: if I didn't win it was probably somewhat of a failure.

"I was definitely feeling the nerves."

Ligety now joins an elite club of skiers, including Austrian legend Toni Sailer and Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy, to have won three or more gold medals at a world championship. Killy was the last male skier to achieve triple gold at such an event 45 years ago.

"This week has been by far the best week of ski racing in my life," Ligety said.

"To win three gold medals in world championships is a really cool feeling. It's not something I set out to accomplish.

"I still don't think I recognise what I've done so far this week, it's just been so phenomenal... It's just been super surreal."

Silver medallist Marcel Hirscher, on whom ski-obsessed Austria had laid heavy hopes for another medal, tipped his hat to his rival.

"It's amazing, I want to congratulate him. It was awesome what he was doing."

More than a medal, this performance brought a sense of vindication for the 23-year-old, who has been under intense pressure from the media and public to win Austria a still-elusive individual gold medal, after two bronzes and team gold.

"It means a lot for me to bring people the first silver medal for the Austrian team and the Austrian media didn't make it easy for me. So it feels pretty good... There's a big weight off my shoulders, I feel about 300kg lighter.

"I'm so happy, I'm really so happy... it's quite emotional. It actually shines as if it were gold," said the reigning overall World Cup winner.

For Italy's Manfred Moelgg, just making the podium behind the dominating Ligety and Hirscher was a relief.

"It's very difficult to race for third place when you know there are two athletes in front who are very strong," said the former slalom World Cup winner.

"I knew it would be a tight race with Ted and Marcel and I'm very happy with this medal."