BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (AP) – For Italy’s Massimiliano Blardone, Bode Miller’s blunder in the second leg of a World Cup giant slalom on Saturday was a big bonus. For U.S. Olympic combined champion Ted Ligety, it wasn’t so clear cut.

Blardone won a World Cup giant slalom Saturday after Miller squandered his first-run lead by catching his arm on a gate his second time down, giving Italy’s men their first win of the season. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal also benefited, finishing second for his best career GS result.

“For me this is a wonderful win,” Blardone said. “I made a mistake in the second run and the only reason I won the race was because of the advantage I carried into the second leg and because Bode went out.”

Ligety was sitting third and watching from below as Miller came down. The 2004 overall champion was up a full 0.40 on the top half, but, charging a little hard he got back on the tails of his skis and caught an arm on a gate, which cost him about a second and a half.

Though Miller’s gaffe handed Ligety third-place, the podium finish felt bitter sweet.

“With Bode it’s always a kind of surprise. I always enjoy watching that and seeing what he’s going to do. I always root for him. I always root for my teammates” Ligety said. “It’s cool to have a guy like that on your team, who’s so fast, who’s always pushing the limits of what he can do. He definitely has you on the edge of your seat every single time you watch him come down and that’s awesome.

“We’re a good team and had he won, I wouldn’t have that disappointed with fourth. Fourth isn’t nearly as good as third place but as long as we get a W (win) it would’ve been OK.”

Blardone made up a 0.09 second-deficit to claim his third World Cup victory, completing his two trips down the Birds of Prey course in 2 minutes, 27.88 seconds. He won for the first time since taking a giant slalom in Alta Badia nearly a year ago.

For Svindal, it marked another great comeback finish, vaulting from 11th place after the opening run to finish 0.04 seconds behind Blardone. In Thursday’s super-combi, Svindal was 20th after the downhill but won the event after a dominating performance in the slalom.

“It was one of my best GS runs, certainly since last March in Yong Pyong,” said Svindal, who was third at the South Korean resort.

Ligety, who climbed from fifth to third, finished just 0.07 off the pace. Ligety grabbed his broken right hand after crossing the finish line. He had hit it against a gate. Ligety fractured it during training a month ago in Austria, while he was dragging his hand along the snow and struck the base of a gate.

“I hope it doesn’t affect me in tomorrow’s slalom,” he said. “I might get it checked out this afternoon. But it doesn’t feel the same as when I broke it. I didn’t have the same shooting pain, it was a little duller pain but it still doesn’t feel ideal.”

Miller wound up in 12th place, 1.11 seconds off the pace.

“I had no rhythm,” said Miller, visibly angry. Miller, who banged his knuckles against the gate, was checked over by doctors but no injuries were detected, a team official said.

Ligety earned the U.S. team its fifth podium of the week in Beaver Creek. In Saturday’s downhill, Steve Nyman took third place. Lindsey Kildow took second and first in back-to-back downhill races in Lake Louise, Canada, on Friday and Saturday.

Despite finishing out of the top 10, Miller revitalized his image in the technical events with his powerful first leg. On Friday, Miller posted his first World Cup downhill victory in two years. His last World Cup giant slalom win was a year ago on the same course.

Olympic and World Cup giant slalom champion Benjamin Raich of Austria was 11th, 1.07 seconds back.

After six of 38 races, Svindal leads the overall World Cup standings with 221 points. Swiss veteran Didier Cuche sits second on 204 and Italy’s Peter Fill is third with 184.

Raich is fourth with 150. Miller is sixth with 142.


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