In the first run of giant slalom at the Sochi Olympics, Ted Ligety put a 0.93 gap on the field. That would be a large margin for an entire, two-run race, let alone one run. Since he began focusing on his GS in 2006, Ligety has perfected a style that makes him faster—much faster—than his competitors. In a course replay, with Ligety’s run and Bank’s run superimposed, you could see how the 29-year-old Utahan generates speed out of each turn, almost jetting into the next turn, much like a good slalom skier.
After the first run of the 2014 Olympic GS, I asked Bode what Ted does to generate such huge gaps in GS. Here’s his reply, edited for clarity.
Bode: “Ted gets more shape [to his turn] above the gate, some pressure built above the fall-line so he’s pushing down into the fall line a little bit.
“In general, he carries speed from turn to turn better. Because he’s going deeper, his turn is actually longer. Right now, if you watch the top guys, you’ll see almost a flat spot between their turns. It’s easy to see on the first 15 gates. They make a turn, then the pressure is all finished, the turn is finished. There’s a flat spot. Then they drop in and make another turn and then there’s another flat spot. Each turn is starting from scratch. The reason is because the turn shape is shorter than what the course demands. It doesn’t really make sense for them to make a longer radius turn.
“But Ted goes so round that his turn is naturally a longer radius so by the time his turn finishes, it’s time to go into the next turn. If it’s not [finished], he just keeps going until it is. He’ll just keep turning until it’s time to link to the next turn. That way, he generates speed from one turn into the next one. The two things work together. He generates more speed and links one turn to the next and because he has so much space [around the gates], he never pinches or gets in trouble because he’s always way far away from the gate.
“I take nothing away from Ted. I think he’s one of the best GS skiers in history. Every one right now is trying to do what Ted is doing because of the equipment, course sets, and all this stuff. He’s so much better at it than anyone else. You run into that. Guys tried to copy me for awhile doing different things. It just doesn’t work.
“If Ted had some competitors who skied alternative styles to his … if you saw a guy like [Alberto] Tomba at his best or Hermann [Maier] at his best or even Michael von Gruenigan, those guys had their own thing going, and they knew exactly how to do it. It would be tough for Ted to compete against somebody who was cutting off that much line on him. I’m one of the few guys who, if I have my set-up correct, I can trim off a bunch of line. He’s going way faster, but you get to the finish line at the same time because you’re going 100 meters shorter distance in a GS course. Right now, he’s just so consistent. He makes no errors. And anybody who’s trying to cut off line just ends up making mistakes and it ends up making a huge gap.”