SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- American Ted Ligety built a huge lead in the giant slalom Wednesday and then held on to bring the United States its first alpine gold medal of the Olympics.
Ligety has been the dominating force in giant slalom racing for years on the World Cup circuit, but he was without an Olympic medal in the event until he blew the field away at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.
A perfect first run gave Ligety a lead of almost a full second, an enormous advantage in any alpine event.
All Ligety had to do in the second run was stay on his feet and avoid making a big mistake. His run was safe, but plenty fast enough to bring him the gold.
Ligety had only the 14th fastest time in the second run, but his combined time of 2:45.29 allowed him to defeat Steve Missillier of France by .48 of a second. Another Frenchman, Alexis Pinturault, finished third.
American Bode Miller wound up 20th.
While Miller was in the U.S. spotlight as these Olympics began, much was expected of Ligety as well.
He won three gold medals at last year's world championships and he had plenty of incentive coming into Sochi since he had been shut out of the medals in Vancouver four years ago.
Ligety, however, finished a mere 13th in the combined event and was a distant 14th in the super-giant slalom.
With the sun shining and the mercury right at freezing in the starting gate, Ligety ended his frustration Wednesday.
Ligety's first run was so good that the various members of the world-class field of skiers had a hard time staying within a second and a half of him.
Austria's Matthias Mayer, gold medalist in the downhill, was 1.33 seconds behind after the first round and eventually finished sixth. Austrian powerhouse Benjamin Raich found himself trailing by 1.59 seconds after the first round and finished the competition in seventh place.