SOELDEN, Austria (Oct. 26.)
- The U.S. Ski Team's Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) laid the tracks to defend his title in 2009 as he took to the hill for his 13th career podium with a third place finish at the Audi FIS World Cup season opener in Soelden on Sunday. Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH) opened defense of his overall World Cup title finishing 10th.
Ligety also was joined in his pursuit of World Cup success by teammate Tim Jitloff, who recorded a personal best as he finished 20th. Switzerland's Daniel Albrecht won with a combined time of 2:15.78, followed by countryman Didier Cuche in second with 2:15.92 in the competition, which was delayed in the first run following a crash by Switzerland's Didier Defago.
"It's nice to get a good result right off the bat, especially here in Soelden because it's the first race of the year and you don't really know how fast you're actually skiing," Ligety said. "You get on the race course against the rest of the world and it's good to see how you are against them so it's nice to get on the podium here."
Men's and women's World Cup events from Soelden will be available for same-day streaming on
and will air on Universal Sports TV on Oct. 31 at 7 and 8 p.m. ET, respectively.
While he knows it won't be easy, Ligety, who started out his 2009 World Cup tour clad in his white on hot pink Shred goggles, believes that if he keeps skiing as he did last season, he will be successful in defending his title.
"My main goal is to come in here and defend my GS title again," Ligety said. "It's never easy to defend titles when you've already won one but, I think I can do it if I ski like I did last year. I'm staying on top of things."
Men's Alpine Head Coach Sasha Rearick added that a title repeat is a definite possibility for Ligety, but that the champion might have an additional target in his sights.
"That's a major goal of his to defend his title, but he also wants to be competitive in slalom and he's skiing well enough to do that for sure," Rearick said.
"Slalom a couple years ago was my go-to event and then the last couple years it's fallen off," Ligety added. "But, I feel like I'm back on the verge of contending for the slalom title again and I feel like if things go right, it could be a good year in slalom as well."
Miller, who earned his second career World Cup overall title last season, was fifth after the first run but added a second to his time to finish tenth overall.
For Jitloff, learning from the past was a huge factor in his reaching new World Cup heights.
"It feels good. I am very relieved. I was nervous on that second run - not too terribly, I just wanted to do a good job and I'm proud. I got through and now I can move on and feel comfortable," Jitloff said. "I learned from my mistakes last year and that's what benefited me this year. I had a good game plan and I think that's what it takes on the World Cup."
From a coaches perspective, Rearick was pleased to see Jitloff follow through on months of planning and training.
"To see him come down and execute what he had been working on was huge. We were really excited," Rearick said. "The whole staff did a fantastic job working with him and trying to get him to execute a plan and he did that so he did a fantastic job. The result shows for itself."
Jitloff added that training with the veterans on the team during his summer prep period gave him an added push toward doing better.
"All the training with Schlopes [Erik Schlopy] and Ted, the confidence you feel learning from them is excellent," he said.
Now, with the first race of the season under its belt, the Team heads to Levi, Finland, for men's and women's slalom races.
"I just can't wait for Levi. It's always a good race and a difficult hill. It's super icy and cold so that should go pretty well, hopefully," Ligety said. "My slalom's feeling good so it would be nice to start that out with a podium. But it's never that easy, so, we'll see how it goes."
2008 AUDI FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
Soelden, Austria - Oct. 26, 2008
Men's Giant Slalom
1. Daniel Albrecht, Switzerland, 2:15.78
2. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 2:15.92
3. Ted Ligety, Park City, UT, 2:17.03
4. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 2:17.08
5. Thomas Fanara, France, 2:17.22
6. Christoph Gruber, Austria, 2:17.25
7. Romed Baumann, Austria, 2:17.34
8. Pilipp Schoerghofer, Austria, 2:17.35
9. Carlo Janka, Switzerland, 2:17.36
10. Bode Miller, Bretton Woods, NH, 2:17.37
20. Tim Jitloff, Reno, NV, 2:18.22
(Did not qualify for second run)
37. Jimmy Cochran, Keene, NH, 1:10.24
40. Erik Schlopy, Park City, UT, 1:10.70
DNF-1: Jake Zamanzky, Park City, UT