One of the world's greatest snow sport athletes was at the Winter Games on Friday — and he didn't disappoint.
Two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety was the star of the show in a spectacular dual slalom event. It was held under floodlights at Coronet Peak, offering the large evening crowd a great spectacle.
Ligety typifies the magic of the Winter Games. He's arguably the greatest alpine ski racer of all time and currently the best on the planet. How often do we see the world's No1 here in a global sport? In tennis, motor racing, cycling — no; in golf — not even close.
"It's one of my favourite trips," said Ligety. "What's cool is we have good training here and then in the afternoon, you can play tennis or golf or hike ... do other stuff. You're not just stuck at one resort and doing nothing else apart from skiing.
"When we are training in Chile in September, we are stuck on a mountain somewhere, all together. It's kinda like The Shining or something, it's crazy."
Ligety runs his own ski wear company, is a passionate water skier and talks like Matthew McConaughey. But he has also redefined his sport. He is the first American to win two alpine skiing gold medals and is a five-time world champion.
As well as his results, his style also catches the eye. He's almost horizontal as he comes into each turn, with none of the violent twists you see from some competitors. It's a risky approach but in a sport measured in centimetres, he can sometimes triumph by seconds.
Despite reaching speeds up to 140km/h, Ligety doesn't really feel fear.
"I've been skiing all my life, so there are very few situations that really scare me," said Ligety. "I get a bit scared before the the first run on the Kitzbuhel downhill [a notorious Austrian race] each year but to be a ski racer — especially downhill — you have to be fearless. If it creeps into your mind, it's easier to get injured and you can't really ski at a high level."
Ligety enjoyed the low-key atmosphere at the Winter Games. After his Sochi win, he did media for "six or seven hours". At Coronet Peak, there were just three interviews, and the longest interrogation was from a group of young fans who wondered what he'd do with his $15,000 prizemoney, delivered in cash in a white envelope.
The Winter Games feels like an undiscovered jewel — and it is unlikely to stay that way for long.
The biannual event, which encompasses alpine, cross-country and freestyle skiing, as well as snow boarding and curling, gets bigger with every edition. There are also nightly festivals in Queenstown and Wanaka, providing a unique apres ski atmosphere. In short, it's becoming a major drawcard.
Along with Ligety, the Winter Games also boast Mikaela Shiffrin, rated the world's best technical female ski racer and the current world and Olympic champion, and Sochi slopestyle gold medallist Joss Christensen.
There's also Japanese snowboarder Yuki Kadano, the first person to achieve a back-to-back, 1620-degree triple cork.
Add in local talents such as Jossi Wells and Janina Kuzma, and some of the world's best curling teams, and New Zealand's mini-Winter Olympics is living up to its name.
The Winter Games continue until August 30.