Giant slalom king Ligety wins Olympic gold
Gold medallist Ted Ligety stands on the podium during the men's alpine skiing giant slalom flower ceremony at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 19, 2014 - by Olivier Morin
The 29-year-old reigning world champion clocked the fastest time of 2min 45.29sec after two runs down the Rosa Khutor course, finishing in front of a pair of Frenchmen.
Steve Missillier, with only one World Cup podium to his name, was a surprise second at 0.48sec, ahead of Alexis Pinturault who took bronze, 0.64sec off the pace.
The 29-year-old Missillier, 10th after the first run, took the lead after an impressive second run and managed to keep his lead as a number of favourites came down the course.
But Ligety had a huge 1.50sec lead on the Frenchman after the first run and was never in doubt for gold, even racing in 30th place down a deeply rutted course.
For the cool American, this is a second Olympic title after combined gold in Turin in 2006.
A four-time world champion -- including twice in giant slalom -- he has never had much success at Winter Games in his preferred discipline, failing to finish in Turin and coming in ninth place in Vancouver.
He finally has a first medal at the Sochi Games after a disappointing 12th place in the super-combined and 14th place in the super-G.
The bronze for 22-year-old Pinturault is his first major medal.
Ligety, Pinturault and Austrian hot shot Marcel Hirscher had been widely seen as the favourites to win before the race.
But Hirscher, the current World Cup leader in giant slalom, fell short of the podium by 0.30sec.
His compatriot Matthias Mayer, Olympic downhill champion, was another surprise, coming in a strong sixth place.
But the 23-year-old's start met with controversy as the French team complained that an exception had been made to International Ski Federation (FIS) rules to let him race.
Mayer only competed in three FIS giant slalom races this season, below the required minimum of five.
Germany's Felix Neureuther, who was long in doubt for the race, finished eighth on a crisp course in sunny weather that had little in common with the slushy conditions in the women's giant slalom on Tuesday.
The slalom world silver-medallist was involved in a car accident on Friday in Munich on his way to take his plane for Sochi and had to cut short training on Monday due to serious pain.
Defending Olympic champion Carlo Janka of Switzerland was 13th.
Norway's Kjetil Jansrud, giant slalom silver-medallist in Vancouver and looking to add a third Sochi medal to his super-G gold and downhill bronze, skied out.
Other casualties included Italy's world bronze medallist Manfred Moelgg and compatriot Roberto Nani.