The 2013 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup has been full of surprises for U.S. Skiing, ranging from devastating injuries earlier this month to medal domination late last week. At the weekend's close, the U.S. team was the first non-European nation to come away with the most golds at Worlds.
On Friday, Ted Ligety zoomed down the slopes and into the halls of skiing legend after becoming the first man in 45 years to win three world titles. Ligety won the super-G and then took an unexpected gold in the super-combined, which he had not won since the Torino Olympics in 2006. All eyes waited to see if Ligety could take gold and glory on Friday when he competed in his best event: giant slalom.
Ligety didn't stumble. He finished almost a second ahead of his closest competition, Marcel Hirscher, tying a record that han't been touched since 1968.
"No one has done this in the modern era because of the development of the World Cup," said U.S. Ski Team head men's coach Sasha Rearick. "You have tremendous athletes, programs, national teams, and company support pushing at a very high level. Over the last 30 years, specialists have developed in multiple events, so to be able to win in three events has been impossible. When you think of the greats like Lasse Kjus, Kjetil Aamodt, and Hermann Maier, they haven't done it. It's amazing, an absolutely amazing achievement for Ted."
Adding to American miracles, Mikaela Shiffrin of Vail, Colorado, became one of the youngest female champions in the world on Saturday after winning gold in the slalom. (To put this in perspective, Lindsey Vonn didn't medal until she was 22, and didn't win gold until she was 24.) Shiffrin won three of seven world cups slalom races this year; no other female skier has won more than one.
Julia Mancuso brought home a fifth medal for the U.S. team earlier this month with a bronze in the super-G, also bringing her personal medal count to five.
Perhaps the most incredible piece of the story is that the team's stars, Lindsay Vonn and Bode Miller, who hold six world titles between them, dropped out due to injuries. With Vonn and Miller on the mend, the U.S. Ski team promises to be a formidable powerhouse in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Check out our feature on Mikaela Shiffrin and her photo gallery. More on how Ted Ligety bounced back from major injury can be read here.