American Ligety wins his first World Cup super-combined

WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) — Ted Ligety owned Olympic and world championship gold medals in super-combined, but until Friday he had never won the event on the World Cup circuit.

Then the American surpassed Alexis Pinturault of France, last year’s winner, in the decisive downhill run.

“It’s a nice little confidence boost and step in the right direction for getting ready for Sochi,” said Ligety, who perhaps became an Olympic gold medal favorite in two events, including his specialist giant slalom discipline.

Ligety overturned a 1.22-second deficit from the slalom to beat Pinturault by 0.22. Natko Zrncic-Dim of Croatia was third, trailing 1.08 behind Ligety’s combined time of 2 minutes, 44.74 seconds.

Pinturault acknowledged he and Ligety were medal contenders in the super-combined in Sochi scheduled for Feb. 14.

“The big challengers for me is going to be Ted Ligety and Ivica Kostelic, for sure,” he said.

Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway posted the fastest downhill time to finish fifth, enough to take the overall World Cup lead from Austrian rival Marcel Hirscher, who skips speed events.

Bode Miller, the super-combined Olympic champion, was ninth after finishing seventh in a tricky slalom in the morning.

Ligety’s 20th career World Cup win was his first outside giant slalom. But he won the world title in super-combined last year and earned the gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics when the traditional combined included two slalom legs.

Kostelic, the Olympic silver medalist in both Ligety’s and Miller’s victories, skied out early in the morning run by straddling a gate. The veteran Croatian is a six-time winner in slalom and super-combined in Wengen.

Ligety also extended his advantage over Pinturault in the race for third place in the overall standings.

Svindal earned 45 World Cup points to lead Hirscher by 22, and is favored to pad his lead on Saturday in the classic Lauberhorn downhill. Hirscher is expected to score heavily in the slalom on Sunday, which Svindal will skip.

Ligety trails Svindal by 264 points.

Organizers ran the slalom first on Friday to give time for cloud cover to clear and also to prepare the shortened, 3.1-kilometer (1.9-mile) downhill course after heavy overnight snowfall.

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