SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) — American Ted Ligety already has two gold medals at the world championships, and he hasn't even skied his best event yet.
Ligety won the super-combined title Monday with a superb downhill and an equally impressive night slalom run under the lights on the icy Planai course, for a two-run time of 2 minutes, 56.96 seconds.
Ivica Kostelic of Croatia finished second, a distant 1.15 seconds behind, and Romed Baumann of host Austria took the bronze medal, 1.17 back, after leading the downhill leg.
Ligety is best known for his giant slalom skills, but he won the super-G that opened the championships. He'll be the overwhelming favorite for a third gold in Friday's GS, after winning four of the five World Cup races in the discipline so far this season.
Although he wasn't the last racer down, Ligety celebrated by skiing around in a circle in the finish area, then let out a series of fist pumps, knowing that it would be hard for anyone to match him.
"I've been on the World Cup for nine years now, so I know how to handle the pressure," said Ligety, who hails from Park City, Utah.
Ligety was the best positioned of the technical skiers after finishing the downhill in sixth place, only 0.72 behind Baumann.
"It's really a testament to my downhill this morning. It was awesome," Ligety said. "I knew I didn't have to push super hard in the slalom"
Ligety won the combined in the old format with two slalom runs at the 2006 Turin Olympics, but he had never finished on the podium before in super-combined.
Two-time defending champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway stood second after the downhill but straddled a gate in the slalom. The Norwegian, who won Saturday's downhill, said he hurt his knee slightly while pushing out of the start gate during his morning run.
Austrian veteran Benjamin Raich was well positioned after the downhill in 12th, but he also straddled a gate midway down his slalom run.
Alexis Pinturault of France, another pre-race favorite, was 22nd in the downhill, then had a wild slalom run. Midway down, Pinturault made a big mistake and an acrobatic recovery but still had the fastest slalom leg by a large margin to finish sixth overall.
Swiss racer Sandro Viletta finished fifth, narrowly avoiding disaster when a course worker skied onto the piste during his downhill run. Viletta managed to ski around the worker, who looked oblivious to what was going on until Viletta passed him at full speed.
The last American to win the combined title at worlds was Bode Miller in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 2003. Miller, who also won the super-combi at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, is sitting out this season to recover from left knee surgery.
Ligety had the second-fastest slalom run on a course featuring gradients as steep as 52 percent after some frustrations in recent combined events.
Ligety had a super-combined podium finish in sight in Wengen, Switzerland, last month until his right ski slipped free two-thirds down his slalom run. And in the traditional combined in Kitzbuehel a few weeks ago, he missed a gate early in his first slalom run.
"It's been a long way coming," Ligety said. "When I heard (Kostelic) was only 0.19 ahead of a downhill skier, I knew that he must have put the brakes on a bit. I just tried to ski as smart as possible, have a solid run all the way down and not make too many mistakes. To see the green light at the bottom was a really sweet feeling."