FILE UNDER -- Alpine

Beaver Creek: Rocca wins, USA's Ligety career-best third in slalom

Beaver Creek: Rocca wins, USA’s Ligety career-best third in slalomBEAVER CREEK – Giorgio Rocca of Italy won a World Cup slalom race Sunday to wrap up four wild days of ski racing at the Visa Birds of Prey series in Colorado.

Rocca won by nearly a second when first-run leader Benjamin Raich of Austria went out near the finish of the second run. Two wildcards, Frenchman Stephane Tissot and American Ted Ligety, joined Rocca on the podium.

It’s the first podium of Ligety’s career. “I’ve been skiing really good slalom,” he said. “I skied in a NorAm with a full World Cup field, and I won that, so I had tons of confidence coming into today. I just wanted to ski as fast as I could and see what I could do.”

After a slightly disappointing first run left him in 13th, Ligety skied more aggressively second run. “I figured I might as well not leave anything up on the hill this time. I just let it all out, and it worked out pretty well.”

After finishing in second behind Raich at last year’s Bird’s of Prey slalom, it looked like history would repeat itself this year as the Austrian slid toward the finish. But Raich skied out with less than five gates to the finish and Rocca took the top spot on the podium in the first slalom of the season.

“It’s nice, a nice start for the season,” Rocca said. “My form was not 100 percent. It’s a good start. Then we have more races. I want more work, because these guys was very fast.”

Rocca said he had “a good feeling with Beaver Creek,” despite facing adverse weather in the second run. He also said his victory put the Italians on the right foot with the Torino Olympic Games 10 weeks away.

“It’s a nice opportunity for Italians. We are working a lot hard, and then we try to make our best,” he said. “But it’s very difficult, because the Americans were very fast in giant and downhill and super G, and then slalom.”

Tissot’s previous career best was a 10th last year at Beaver Creek. “It’s amazing,” he said. “I can’t believe that I was second yet. I have to take time to believe that I was second.”

It was a day of massive attrition in the opening FIS slalom of the season. Twenty-eight skiers did not finish the first run, a tight course set in cold temperatures but mostly clear skies. But snow was falling heavily in the second run, and eight of the 30 second-run qualifiers did not finish. Raich, the leader after one run and the World Cup defending slalom champion, seemed poised to claim victory before missing a gate just seconds from the finish.

Rocca, one of the host country’s top medal hopes in alpine skiing at the Torino Olympics in February, completed two runs on the Birds of Prey course in an unofficial time of 1 minute, 51.72 seconds.

Tissot, only 20th after the first run, had the fastest second run and finished No. 2 in 1:52.58.

The 21-year-old Ligety, who crashed in the first run of Saturday’s giant slalom, had never finished better than eighth in a World Cup race before Sunday. He faced some blowing snow, as a weather system moved in for the second run, but it didn’t faze the young American.

“At times, it gets pretty gnarly up there with the wind and it’s hard to see the ruts, and hard to see your feet,” Ligety said. “You’ve got to sort of feel your way down, and do what you can with what you’ve got.”

Ligety, the 2004 Sprint/Ski Racing Junior of the Year, recently signed an endorsement deal with Park City Mountain Resort.

Ligety has been beating all of his teammates in training, and won an extremely competitive NorAm last week.

American Bode Miller didn’t qualify for the second run. He missed a gate about 20 seconds into his opening run, then hiked back up to where he went off-course and completed the run for practice.

Men’s slalom
Beaver Creek, Colo.
Dec. 4, 2005

1. Giorgio Rocca, ITA 1:51.72
2. Stephane Tissot, FRA 1:52.58
3. Ted Ligety, USA 1:52.60
4. Kjetil Jansrud, NOR 1:53.05
4. Akira Sasaki, JPN 1:53.05
4. Mario Matt, AUT 1:53.05
7. Ivica Kostelic, CRO 1:53.28
8. Lars Myhre, NOR 1:53.31
9. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 1:53.72
10. Silvan Zurbriggen, SUI 1:53.74
11. Felix Neureuther, GER 1:53.78
12. Reinfried Herbst, AUT 1:53.80
13. Kentaro Minagawa, JPN 1:53.97
14. Patrick Biggs, CAN 1:54.04
15. Patrick Thaler, ITA 1:54.23
16. Tom Rothrock, USA 1:54.42
17. Martin Hansson, SWE 1:54.73
18. Bernard Vajdic, SLO 1:54.77
19. Pierrick Bourgeat, FRA 1:54.81
20. Ales Gorza, SLO 1:55.13
21. Giancarlo Bergamelli, ITA 1:55.84
22. Marc Gini, SUI 1:56.61
23. Hans-Petter Buraas, NOR 2:00.15
Other North Americans:
DNS: Erik Schlopy, USA
DNF 1st: James Cochran, USA; Julien Cousineau, Paul Stutz, Thomas Grandi, CAN.
DNF 2nd: Chip Knight, USA; Michael Janyk, CAN.
DNQ 2nd: Bode Miller, Warner Nickerson, USA; Ryan Semple, Jean-Philippe Roy, CAN.

By Hank McKee

Men’s slalom, Beaver Creek, Dec. 4, 2005

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Rocca, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Tissot, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
3. Ligety, Volkl/Nordica/Marker
4. Jansrud, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Sasaki, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
4. Matt, Fischer/Nordica/Fischer
7. Kostelic, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
8. Myhre, Nordica/Nordica/Marker
9. Svindal, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10. Zurbriggen, Fischer/Lange/Tyrolia

Men’s slalom, Beaver Creek, Colo., Dec. 4, 2005. … It is the seventh race of the men’s 34 race, four combined World Cup schedule. … It is the first of 10 scheduled slaloms. … It is the final race of a four-race set at Beaver Creek encompassing all four disciplines. … The American men enter the race riding a two race win streak.

It is the seventh career win for Swiss born Italian Giorgio Rocca, all in slalom. … It is his first win outside of Europe. … He was second at Beaver Creek in slalom a season ago. … It is the second World Cup win by an Italian this season, following Elena Fanchini’s DH win Dec.2. … He is 30 years of age from Livigno.

It is a career first podium for Stephane Tissot. … His previous best was 10th at Beaver Creek is slalom Dec. 5, 2004. … It is his sixth career scoring result, all in slalom. … It is the best slalom performance for a French male since Pierrick Bourgeat was second at Chamonix on Jan. 11, 2004. … Tissot started 35th.

It is the first career podium for Ted Ligety. … His previous best was an eighth in GS at Solden on Oct. 23, 2005. … It is his ninth career scoring result. … He represents the sixth podium placing for the United States in four days. … He started 27th.

It is the fourth scoring result for Patrick Biggs, all in slalom. … He has been 10th twice. … A 16th place matches the eighth-best career finish for Tom Rothrock. … He has 20 scoring results, all in slalom.

It is the first career scoring result for Lars Myhre of Norway and Marc Gini of Switzerland. … Ten of the 23 finishers came from outside the first seed.

Aksel Svindal (ninth in race) is the overall World Cup leader 295-285 over Daron Rahlves (did not race). … Bode Miller (DNQ 2nd run) is third at 282. … It is the first slalom of the men’s schedule so the race result matches the slalom standings (Rocca 100, Tissot 80 and Ligety 60). … Just the top three are within a second of the winner. … The top nine within two seconds. … The Americans (men and women) tallied 976 points for the four-day schedule. … And still did not outpoint the Austrians at 1,506. … Austria leads the men’s Nations Cup rankings 1,501-785 over the United States.

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