U.S. Skier Scores Rare World Cup Trifecta

With giant slalom victory, Ted Ligety becomes first in 45 years to win three World Cup golds

When Ted Ligety won Friday's giant slalom by a massive 0.81-second margin, the heavily favored American joined the ranks of skiing legends. Having already taken the super-G and super combined earlier in the week, he became the first man to win three gold medals at a world ski championships since 1968, when legendary French skier Jean-Claude Killy won four.

Friday's win came as no surprise for Ligety, who'd been crushing the competition all season, winning four out of five World Cup races. But he didn't expect to take the super-G and super combined, neither of which he'd ever won before on the World Cup circuit. "I felt I had a chance in every event but to get three gold medals far exceeds my expectations,” Ligety told the New York Times. “I thought maybe I’d sneak in with a bronze or silver in a couple of the events. But I did ski to win every day.”

And win he did, garnering comparisons to Killy and other greats, like Austrian dynamo Toni Sailer (1956), Norwegian pioneer Stein Eriksen (1954) and Frenchman "Father of Modern Skiing" Émile Allais (1937), the only other men in history with three or more gold medals in a single world championships.

Of course, the timing of Ligety's big showing—just one year out from the 2014 Olympics—makes him the skier to watch in Sochi. With superstar teammate Lindsey Vonn's season cut short by a crash in the super-G and Bode Miller taking the season off to heal a knee injury, Ligety is almost assured of the same kind of pressure those two faced at the past two Olympics.

In the meantime, though, Ligety still has another crack at victory in this championships, when he races the slalom on Sunday. Seventeen-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin will take the course for the U.S.