It then became Raich's race to lose, and he lost it with a DQ.
Ligety, only 21, coughing and wheezing, became only the fourth American male to win gold in Alpine.
The crapshoot turned on Ligety four years ago when he finished ninth in the Olympic GS race he was expected to win.
Ski racers notoriously couch Olympic expectations because they know their fates are often tied to the ski gods of weather, snow conditions, bib draws and course setup.
In fact, pre-race Olympic favorites have historically foundered.
Winning a World Cup event "globe" is much more indicative of a skier's place in the sport because, Ligety says, "It's a compilation of your entire season. You have to be good in a bunch of events throughout the entire year."
That said, a gold in combined, which is sort of a concocted Olympic event, is different from gold in giant slalom.
If Ligety is the king of GS, which he is, doesn't he need that crowning Olympic achievement?
"Obviously, the expectations are a lot higher this time around, but I think I'm in a much better place, my skiing, but also mentally," Ligety said.
After his performance at last year's world championships, though, people now expect the world of Ligety.