KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Ted Ligety had been working up to this moment since he became the best in the world at what he does seven years ago.
Now, on a sunny day in the mountains in south Russia, it was right there.
There were two outcomes. He could grab it, like everyone expected him to all winter.
Or he could blow it.
There was no in-between. He had a huge lead, certainly, but a whole lot of pressure on him, too.
And then Ligety, who performs an intricate, athletic dance through a giant slalom course, skiing like no one else before him or with him, kicked out of the start hut ...
And grabbed it.
With a monumental lead of 1.5 seconds on then-leader Steve Missillier of France, skiing last among the contenders, Ligety got to the finish line in a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds, beating silver medalist Missillier by 0.48 seconds and Alexis Pinturault, another Frenchman, by 0.64.
A gold medal in the Olympic giant slalom was his.
Ligety, 29, of Park City, Utah, became just the second U.S. skier ever to possess two Olympic gold medals, joining Andrea Mead-Lawrence, who won the slalom and giant slalom gold medals way back in 1952.
Phil Mahre, Bill Johnson, Picabo Street, Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and other great American skiers have just one gold.
Ligety, who won his first gold in combined as a 21-year-old in Torino in 2006, also became the first U.S. male to win the Olympic giant slalom, an event he now officially owns.
The triumph came after he had finished 12th in the super-combined and 14th in super-G in previous races in the Sochi Games.
"The first gold medal came a lot easier," Ligety said. "At that point, there was a lot less of the struggles of the World Cup, the struggles of the grind. To win a gold medal now, especially after having Vancouver being really tough and the Olympics so far here being lackluster, to be able to throw down in an event I had the most passion in and I was the favorite in ...
"To be able to do that is awesome."
He said he wasn't discouraged by his earlier results.
"This is the event I wanted to win," he said. "The combined, it would have been awesome to win a medal there. But that wasn't the one I cared so much about. And I knew I was an outside chance in super-G. This is where I knew I had a good chance.
"I knew my skiing was in the right spot. I know where I stand in giant slalom. To be able to throw down in that kind of pressure and be up there with some of the greats is really an honor."