Snow job: three big wins for U.S. skiers

It was another big day for two U.S. ski team members who each has been having such days for weeks. . .months. . .years.

And a third won the world title in an event, freestyle slopestyle, that will debut on the Olympic program next year in Sochi, Russia.

Three sports, three U.S. victories.

By winning for the fifth time in seven World Cup giant slalom races this winter, Ted Ligety clinched the fourth season title of his career in the discipline Saturday at Kransjka Gora, Slovenia.

And cross-country skier Kikkan Randall took her second straight World Cup season title in the sprint events by winning Saturday’s freestyle race in Lahti, Finland.

It was the Alaskan’s third cross-country World Cup win in a season when she and Jessica Diggins combined to take the team sprint title at the World Championships.

“When I was injured (foot stress fracture) this fall I thought I might have to take the sprint title off my goals list,” Randall said.

“But then the season started so strong for me, and it was a great feeling to be back in the (leader’s) red bib again. I was really anxious to see if I could hold my shape all the way to the end of the season.”

Ligety, of Park City, Utah, reclaimed the giant slalom season title he had lost to Marcel Hirscher of Austria a year ago.

It followed his having won three gold medals – giant slalom, Super-G, combined – at last month’s world championships.

Ligety made the podium in every World Cup giant slalom this season, adding two third places to the five firsts.

“This is something I don’t expect to replicate,” Ligety said.  “It has kind of been a dream season in GS.”

There is some irony there.  Ligety was among those who protested loudest over the rules governing giant slalom ski shape that went into effect this season.  When the international ski federation went ahead with the changes, Ligety turned his energy to mastering the new equipment.

"(I) changed my whole program from overall strength and power training, with a little bit of muscle endurance," he told Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated, "to almost entirely muscle endurance, because on the straighter skis, it's just so much more physically demanding, way more tiring.

“Before, because of the nature of the shaped skis, you ski with less intensity and still get on the podium. Now, if you ski with 95 percent intensity, you lose a second and you're out of it."

In slopestyle, the skier does tricks after going as high as possible off a jump.  Tom Wallisch, 25, of Pittsburgh did that better than 59 other competitors Saturday in Voss, Norway.

It was the world meet debut for Wallisch, who has dominated his event for several seasons, winning two X Games titles.  A balky knee had slowed him this season, when he failed to make the X Games final.

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