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Ligety Upstages DQ'd Miller For Gold

Not that long ago, Ted Ligety was everything Bode Miller is not: unknown, unsponsored, unaccomplished.

Now, thanks both to his own clean, aggressive skiing and errors by Miller and other favorites, Ligety is an Olympic champion.

Miller still is not.

"It's great to be where I am," the 21-year-old Ligety said, his voice hoarse, "but it's unexpected, that's for sure."

Never before a competitor at a Winter Games, never before a winner of any major race, Ligety produced two spectacular slalom runs to pull out the combined event Tuesday night, only the fourth time in Olympic history an American man has collected a gold medal in Alpine skiing.

As CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports, nobody looked more stunned than Ligety himself - as he scooped the gold in a come-from-behind victory.

A few hours before, it appeared Miller might win that medal. Fastest in the downhill portion of the three-leg event, he was disqualified after straddling a gate in the first slalom.

Check the schedule of upcoming events.

In related developments:

  • The U.S. women's hockey team rallied from a rare two-goal deficit for a 7-3 victory over Finland on Tuesday. Angela Ruggiero scored the go-ahead goal on an end-to-end rush with 9:44 to play. The U.S. will meet Sweden in Friday's semifinals. Track the current medal count here.
  • Figure skater Evgeni Plushenko is all but a lock for gold, and everyone else will have to settle for a different color. After finishing second in the short program, the three-time U.S.champion Johnny Weir said it was a race for the silver because Russia's Plushenko is so good. Currently, he is 10 points ahead of Weir.
  • Figure skater Emily Hughes is due into Turin on Thursday. The newest Olympian's departure from the New York area was delayed by a snowstorm. She'll skate in Turin for the first time on Friday and hold a news conference that day. Hughes is the younger sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes. She's heading to Turin to fill in for injured nine-time national champion Michelle Kwan.
  • Chris Soule wanted his second shot at the Olympics to arrive under better circumstances. He's a last-minute replacement on the U.S. skeleton team for Zach Lund, who was suspended one year for failing a drug test. He joins a group that has been through weeks of turmoil leading up to the Winter Games. Will a few precious days be enough to prepare for a medal shot? "It has to be. There's nothing else I can do," said Soule, who was seventh at the Salt Lake City Games four years ago.
  • Speedskater Joey Cheek credits his gold medal in the men's 500 meters to his relaxation skills — and Jessica Simpson? Cheek said he watched the movie "The Dukes of Hazzard" — which featured Simpson as Daisy Duke — before he raced Monday, then "skated out of my head. I've never skated races that well before. For it to come together like this in the Olympics is a real honor," he said.
  • The American women are shut out of the medals in the 500-meter speedskating race today. Jennifer Rodriquez finished eleventh and Amy Sannes 17th. Wisconsin speedskater Elli Ochowicz of Waukesha finished 23rd and Chris Witty of West Allis came in 28th.
  • After three days of competition at the Turin Games, organizers are edging closer to their goal for ticket sales. Giuseppe Gattino, head of the TOROC organizing committee said Tuesday that 13,000 tickets were sold Monday, bringing the games' total to 789,000. With 1.03 million tickets available, organizers have set a sales goal of 830,000.
  • Smog levels in the Winter Olympics host city are in almost daily breach of European Union limits, but authorities said Tuesday that taking measures against air pollution would disrupt the running of the games. Monitoring stations across the city are constantly detecting pollutant levels that are dangerous to human health, said Enrico Garrou, director of the Regional Environment Protection Agency in Turin.
  • American medal hopeful Lindsey Kildow left the hospital Tuesday, just 24 hours after a harrowing training crash that slammed her into the frozen course at 50 mph, and U.S. team officials said she will try to ski Wednesday's downhill. Kildow was on the official start list submitted for the downhill, although U.S. women's coach Patrick Riml said a final decision would depend on her condition just before the race.
  • As the U.S. is stocking up on medals, CBS' Manuel Gallegus reports that in just 24 hours freestyle skier Jeremy Bloom could be holding one. It seems that Bloom is good at everything he does, from powdering down the slopes to playing football to modeling. He may even get drafted by the NFL after competing in Turin. "To me its just looking inside myself and pushing myself to the extreme and pushing the limits that s inside of me — just trying to get the fuel and fire to train harder," Bloom told Gallegus.
  • Hannah Teter won gold (video) and Gretchen Bleiler won silver in the women's halfpipe — one day after fellow Americans Shaun White and Danny Kass finishing 1-2 in the men's competition.
  • Wendy Wagner and Kikkan Randall are in the finals of the women's cross-country team sprint. It's the first time the Americans have advanced past a semifinal in the event. Randall was back in competition following a five-day suspension for high levels of hemoglobin. She and Wagner placed tenth among the ten teams that qualified for the final, but it was a milestone nonetheless. Wagner plans to retire after the Olympics.
  • A Brazilian bobsledder is on his way home. He's the first drug case at the Olympics. The sledder tested positive for steroids in a pre-Olympic drug test. A statement on the Brazilian Olympic Committee's Web site says he showed evidence of the steroid nandrolone. Brazilian officials say they have a zero tolerance policy.

  • In 32nd place following the afternoon downhill, Ligety took a star turn under the floodlights during the evening slalom. He was as consistent as a metronome, rocking smoothly back and forth, back and forth, smacking away gates with his orange gloves and black shin guards.

    "You've just got to get in the starting gate," Ligety said, "and throw down whatever you've got."

    When he finished his final run, the day's fastest at 43.84 seconds, the youngster nicknamed "Ligety Split" raised his hands and took a well-deserved bow.

    Still, Ligety had to wait to celebrate.

    First, Ivica Kostelic of Croatia finished a half-second shy. Then, World Cup slalom champion Benjamin Raich of Austria went off-course about 30 seconds into his run.

    That was it. U.S. skiers Steven Nyman and Scott Macartney ran over to tackle Ligety, and the trio of teammates rolled in the snow. Ligety took a victory ride on the others' shoulders, waving a U.S. flag.

    "It's a great day, especially with Bode skiing out," Macartney said. "Ted stepped up."

    Ligety, from Park City, Utah, had never finished better than 10th in a top-level combined race. On Tuesday, he was best with a total time of 3 minutes, 9.35 seconds. Kostelic won the silver, 0.53 behind, and got a hug from sister Janica, herself a champion Olympic skier. Rainer Schoenfelder of Austria was third, 1.32 back.

    Raich, meanwhile, pushed his goggles atop his head and slowly made his way down the hill.

    "Bad luck," he said. "Of course, I'm sad, but life must go on."

    It wasn't the first time Ligety benefited from an error by Raich. Ligety's first career World Cup podium finish came in December at Beaver Creek, Colo., when Raich skied off-course on the second run of a slalom, allowing the American to finish third.

    That was Ligety's breakthrough, and his coaches have been predicting even greater things for him — albeit not this quickly.

    "I'm not surprised he's on the podium," U.S. men's coach Phil McNichol said. "I'm a bit surprised he won gold."

    The performance must have been a relief to the team, after Miller and Daron Rahlves were afterthoughts in Sunday's downhill, and Lindsey Kildow had a horrifying crash in women's downhill training. On Tuesday, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association president and chief executive Bill Marolt found himself defending the team's motto: "Best in the World."

    And yet, Miller seemed in great shape for his first Olympic gold

    he took two silvers at Salt Lake City — after a glistening downhill and what appeared to be a good-enough-to-still-lead opening slalom.

    It turned out not to be.

    As a replay showed, Miller failed to negotiate a gate two-thirds of the way down the slalom and was bounced from the competition half an hour later. Nothing new there: Since winning a World Cup slalom on this very same hill in December 2004, Miller has failed to finish 11 of 14 slaloms.

    "I don't really intend to get that disappointed," Miller said, then managed to make a joke: "I mean, at least I don't have to go all the way down to Torino tomorrow" for the medal ceremony.

    Ligety, of course, will gladly take that 90-minute ride down from the Alps.

    He was sitting with Miller in the rest area when word came that the man with the Nike deal, the satellite radio show and overall World Cup title was done for the day.

    "He was like, 'Are you serious?' I was pretty bummed for him," said Ligety, who becomes the favorite for gold in the slalom Feb. 25.

    Heady stuff for a guy who wasn't on the elite local ski team as a kid, didn't crack the U.S. Ski Team lineup until two years ago and joined the World Cup circuit just last season.

    When he was 10, Ligety started writing down his skiing goals, and didn't exactly aim low.

    "The coaches kept saying, 'Set smaller goals. You can't win an Olympics this year,"' his mother, Cindy Sharp, said at Beaver Creek.

    For a half-dozen years, his parents — Dad's in real estate, Mom sells pottery and jewelry — pumped what Sharp called "a bloody fortune" into Ted's career. That's why, when Ligety still had no agent and no outside sponsor, he raced with a helmet decal reading "Mom and Dad."

    Despite his lack of big-time experience, Ligety is cool and confident, by all accounts. He was wisecracking with a coach right before locking into the starting gate. Maybe that's why he was able to ski such a close, risky line on an icy hill that was bedeviling others.

    "I have no idea how this will change my life," Ligety said. "I'm pretty satisfied with my life so far, so I hope it doesn't change too much."