ADELBODEN, Switzerland — Ted Ligety can join three greats in the Alpine record book by extending his perfect start to the World Cup giant slalom season on Saturday.
A fourth straight win for the 26-year-old American would match three different marks set by Bode Miller, Alberto Tomba and the most prolific World Cup skier of all, Ingemar Stenmark.
Ligety senses the history surrounding his race on a storied Adelboden hill, which is likely to be lined with 30,000 noisy Swiss fans.
“I’m aware of it, and I know how difficult it is,” Ligety told The Associated Press. “I’m not really nervous about trying to continue the streak. … If I do, awesome. If I don’t, and I’m in the top couple of guys, then I’m still going to be happy.”
Ligety will certainly be happy if he can regain the lead in the World Cup overall standings that he held briefly last month. He currently sits third.
With eight career World Cup wins in his specialist discipline, the Utah native could equal Miller’s record for U.S. men of nine GS triumphs. He’d also be the first GS skier to reel off four in a row since Tomba in 1991.
The flamboyant Italian’s run spanned two seasons, though, with the last three triumphs on U.S. snow at Aspen, Colo., Waterville Valley, N.H., and eight months later on Ligety’s home course in Park City. Only Stenmark has started 4-for-4 in 45 seasons of World Cup giant slalom racing, when he swept all 10 events during his historic 1978-79 campaign.
The Swedish legend’s streak started the previous season, continued into the next and eventually ended with 14 straight GS wins.
The style of Ligety’s dominating victories suggests he could join such a rich list.
On three consecutive December weekends — at Beaver Creek, Colo., Val d’Isere, France, and the icy aficionados’ slope at Alta Badia — Ligety was headed just once, when Frenchman Cyprien Richard led the opening run in Italy.
“When your skis are working well and you’re in good shape, it’s amazing how easy skiing can be,” Ligety said by telephone from Zagreb, Croatia. “I don’t feel like I was pushing it super hard. I was making it down clean and not making mistakes.
“When I have the confidence like I do in GS, it carries over into other events.”
Ligety’s sixth-place finish under the Zagreb night lights Thursday was his best slalom result in two years. That boost can help him overcome a Friday trek by air and road caused when World Cup organizers fixed the Swiss start for 40 hours after racing finished in Croatia.
“It’s a hellish schedule,” acknowledged Ligety, whose U.S team head coach Sasha Rearick will set the first-leg gates layout. “I’m super psyched about that. I can tell him what I want, so that’s a little advantage for me.”
It’s a strange way to treat the Adelboden giant slalom, which was featured in the first-ever week of World Cup racing in January 1967.
“Putting (the race) on the cow pastures and with a good atmosphere, it’s cool,” said Ligety, whose best placing on the hill was ninth two years ago. “Adelboden and Alta Badia are races GS skiers really look forward to winning.”