Olympics: Ligety, Miller lead US ski charge in Sochi

Four-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist Ted Ligety and veteran Bode Miller will lead the US men's medal charge in the alpine skiing at the Sochi Olympics.

But Ligety and Miller will not have it all their own way, up against the likes of slalom specialist Marcel Hirscher and Aksel Lund Svindal, the latter seeking to cement his status as one of the sport's best ever male skiers.

Ligety was the star of last year's World Ski Championships, claiming three gold medals in the giant slalom, super-G and super-combined.

His display made up for the absence of teammate and media darling Lindsey Vonn, who suffered a horrendous season-ending crash in the women's opening super-G.

Ligety started the season with his usual aplomb, carrying on his masterful giant slalom form, but then went through what he dubbed a rotten run of bad luck, being bucked out of races by hidden ruts and unusually straddling gates.

His textbook form came back with perfect timing, however, when he won the final giant slalom before the Olympics, at St Moritz last week, finishing a massive 1.51sec ahead of Hirscher.

"My skiing is in the right place and it is good to win here before the Games," said Ligety.

"It was nice to get another good race in and confirm where I am in giant slalom on an actual race, not just have training, and then hopefully I can carry that confidence over the next couple weeks.

"It is great to rediscover my best form at this particular time. "Things are coming together. The Sochi course is not that different from Beaver Creek or here (St Moritz). The mountain there will suit my skiing."

Ligety added: "My skiing feels good, I've just had some unlucky breaks this year but as far as where the skiing is I feel it's technically solid, it's just a question of not having those hiccups."

Teammate Miller, now 36 and a five-time Olympic medallist, is the most decorated American skier in history and although his season's form has been patchy it has been improving, and only a fool would write off his chances of adding to his medal tally in what will be his fifth Winter Games.

However, the strapping figure of an "attacking Viking" will likely be standing in his and many other skiers' way to the top of the podium.

Aksel Lund Svindal is the defending Olympic super-G champion, and the Norwegian colossus also shone at the 2013 worlds in Schaldming, where he won downhill gold and super-G bronze, and narrowly missed out on the giant slalom podium.

Svindal's teammate Henrik Kristoffersen won the famed Schladming slalom last week to send out a broadside, the 19-year-old announcing himself as a real contender in the technical events.

Indeed, the men's slalom promises to be a real humdinger of an event, with the most competitive top 15 seen in a very long while.

The arrival of France's Alexis Pinturault and Kristoffersen as proper challengers to world slalom champion Hirscher, with a host of other rival skiers ever ready to push for the podium, is a welcome sight for the sport.

"Right now in the top 15 each of them can win a race and it has changed a bit over the last three or four years, with everything getting closer," said Hirscher, second to Kristoffersen in St Moritz and ahead of Pinturault.

"For the crowd and the sport and people interested in it it's a really good thing to have all these rivalries.

"For us it is tough, we have to go and push ourselves to our personal limits."