KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — This was the race Ted Ligety knew he should win.
So did everybody else.
And that, Ligety explained Wednesday after becoming the first American man in Olympic history with two Alpine skiing gold medals, was precisely what made the feat so tough.
Sometimes, being a popular pick can be overwhelming. Ligety learned that four years ago, and dealt with the matter far better on this day.
Scraping the snow with his gloves and hips while taking wide turns around gates, his body swaying left and right with a pendulum’s precision, Ligety finished the two-leg giant slalom with a combined time of 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds, winning by nearly a half-second.
His gold is the first for the U.S. Alpine team at the Sochi Games. Yet Ligety’s overriding emotion as he fell to the ground in the finish area was something other than pure joy.
“It was a huge relief,” said Ligety, a 29-year-old based in Park City, Utah. “All season long, everybody talks about the Olympics, Olympics, Olympics. At a certain point, I was just like, ‘Let’s do it already. Let’s get this thing over with, so we can stop talking about the pressure and everything with it.’ So it’s awesome to ... finally do it and get the monkey off the back.”
He used a perfect first run to open a wide lead of nearly a second, then protected that with a conservative second run that was only 14th-fastest down the Rosa Khutor course as the sun peeked out from behind a nearby peak and through sparse clouds. All in all, much more comfortable conditions than the fog, rain and sleet of a day earlier.
“His first run was flawless, free. He trusted himself. It was his signature skiing,” U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick said. “The second run was a strategic chess match.”
CROSS-COUNTRY: Marit Bjoergen captured her fifth career Olympic gold medal when Norway won the women’s team sprint. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg was the other Norwegian skier. Finland took silver and Sweden bronze. In the men’s race, Finland took advantage of a fall that slowed its two closest rivals. Russia grabbed the silver, Sweden the bronze.
SNOWBOARDING: Vic Wild, who grew up in White Salmon, Wash., and applied for Russian citizenship after marrying Alena Zavarzina in 2011, won the men’s parallel giant slalom, just minutes after his wife won bronze in the women’s competitiopn. Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland finished second for silver, and Zan Kosir of Slovenia took the bronze. In the women’s race, Patrizia Kummer cruised to victory when Japan’s Tomoka Takeuchi missed a gate midway through the second run of the finals.
SPEEDSKATING: Martina Sablikova, of the Czech Republic, won her second consecutive gold in the women’s 5,000 meters. The Dutch still added two more medals, with Ireen Wust winning silver and Carien Kleibeuker the bronze. Dutch speedskaters have 21 medals overall.
BIATHLON: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen broke the record for overall medals that he had shared with cross-country skiing great Bjoern Daehlie as Norway won the mixed relay. Bjoerndalen can win another medal in the final men’s biathlon event of the Sochi Games, the 4x7.5-kilometer relay on Saturday. In the mixed relay biathlon, the Czech Republic won the silver and Italy the bronze.
BOBSLED: The Canadian team of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse won their second consecutive Olympic women’s bobsled gold. Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, of the U.S., took silver, and teammates Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans the bronze.
CURLING: Canada and Sweden will play for the gold medal in women’s curling after winning semifinal games that went to the final shot. In the men’s tournament, Canada will meet Britain for gold.