BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – Ted Ligety's mellifluous surname and his speed on skis has launched dozens of Ligety-split headlines over the years. Make this one Ligety-skillet.
The master of the giant slalom won his fourth consecutive World Cup in that event on Sunday, a feat not seen since the great Alberto Tomba of Italy in 1991. And Ligety more or less predicted his victory on Saturday with a cast-iron metaphor.
When he finished fifth in the super-G, Ligety told a cluster of reporters that his slalom racing is like fine china — pretty, but breakable — while his form in the giant slalom is like an iron skillet, "where you can kick it around and do anything with it and it holds up."
Sunday, it more than held up. Ligety blazed through his two runs in 2 minutes, 35.77 seconds to beat surprise runner-up Bode Miller, his countryman and training partner, by 1.32 seconds, and third-place Marcel Hirscher of Austria by 1.82 seconds. Everyone else was nearly three seconds to nearly six seconds behind.
"Any time you get a win is awesome," Ligety said, "especially in the U.S. with a lot of friends and family here."
The podium appearance was Miller's first since missing last season to recover from major knee surgery. And it was the first double podium for the United States here since Miller won the 2006 downhill and Steve Nyman came in third.
"To share the podium with Bode is awesome," Ligety said. "I'm a little surprised, actually. He doesn't like it when I say that."
Miller was second to Ligety in the day's first run, with Ligety (1:19.83) faster by more than a full second. In the second run, skiers race in reverse order, meaning the two Americans were the last to ski, setting up optimal drama.
The crowd roared for Miller as he attacked the course, trying to make up time with his trademark daring. And the crowd roared again when Ligety sped through dominantly and cleanly to ensure a one-two finish for the home team after no Americans made the podium in the first two days of the World Cup stop here.
Miller said he thought Ligety's lead was probably too big to overcome but he was going to attack anyway. "I wanted to let him know I was coming for you and there was no coasting," Miller said.
"It's good to have somebody who you train with on a regular basis," Ligety said, "who pushes you."
A questioner asked Miller about coming close.
"I was still a second, point-three off, so not that close," Miller said with a grin.
Ligety said the lead was nice, but no guarantee.
"When I have a second-and-some lead, it makes it a little more comfortable," he said. "But in a ski race, you're never that comfortable with any lead because a small little bump here or there that you don't foresee can knock you off course."
Hirscher, the third-place finisher, said he put a poster of Miller up in his children's room recently. Miller was asked if he'd had any posters in his room.
"No, I have a poster of my wife," he said, and Morgan Miller, pro beach volleyball player and model, covered her mouth in mock embarrassment as laughter washed the room.
The questioner clarified he'd meant when Miller was younger.
"No, I never really had posters of skiers," Miller said. "I never had a poster of anybody, I don't think."
Young skiers would do well with Ligety posters these days, just as they once did with Tomba.
"I guess those are the things I hear in press conferences and hindsight," Ligety said of his Tomba-tying fourth consecutive GS win. "It's pretty cool to be compared to guys like Tomba, that's for sure. But it's not something I think about in the start. I just try to think about what I'm actually doing that day and I don't want to get distracted."
Little seems to distract Ligety in his favorite event, where he is defending world champion. And he figures to be the odds-on favorite in it at the Winter Olympics in Sochi come February.
"The way I've been skiing giant slalom the last year and a half or so I have a lot of confidence in my ability to put down a fast run," Ligety understated. And this time he didn't even mention any kitchenware.