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Eight years ago, at the Turin Games, Ligety grabbed gold in the combined, the very first Olympic event of his career. Oh, how easy everything must have seemed then. He was 21, went from unknown to champion in a blink.

Then came the disappointment of Vancouver four years ago, when Ligety arrived at the Olympics as early as anyone and “just got stale,” as Rearick put it. Expected to shine again, Ligety failed to finish one of his events and came in fifth, ninth and 19th in others.

“Maybe that’s one of the things he learned in Vancouver, that you’ve got to push it. You can’t play it too safe,” said Ligety’s mother, Cyndi Sharp.

Ligety agrees with that assessment. He used what happened in 2010 to drive his tremendous success since, particularly in his best event. He won the giant slalom at the 2011 and 2013 world championships, and he’s won nine of 14 GS races in the World Cup over the last two seasons.

So even after his Sochi Games began slowly — 12th in the super-combined; 14th in the super-G — he was focused on the giant slalom.

Naturally, the rest of the ski world trained its eyes on him Wednesday.

“Having struggled in Vancouver, having been a little bit of a lackluster Olympics so far up until today, I knew there was a lot of pressure on today,” Ligety said, “and I really wanted to perform and ski the way I knew that I could ski.”

And, at least at the moment, no one else can.