SOCHI, Russia -- American Ted Ligety entered the 2014 Winter Olympics as the favorite to win gold in the Alpine skiing giant slalom.

On Wednesday afternoon, at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, he lived up to many experts' lofty expectations by holding off two French skiers with a fantastic first run, and finishing with a cumulative time of 2:45.29.

Ligety, who stumbled a bit in his second run, edged silver medalist Steve Missillier (2:45.77) by 0.48 seconds. Alexis Pinturault earned the bronze with a time of 2:45.93.

“To be able to throw it down in the event I had the most pressure in, and the event I was the favorite in -- to be able to do that is awesome,” Ligety said.

It was a rebound effort for the Utah native, who finished ninth in the competition in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

It was also an important moment for U.S. skiing. Ligety is the first American to win two Olympic gold medals in Alpine skiing in 62 years. Andrea ("Andy") Mead Lawrence won gold in the slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Olympic Winter Games in Oslo.

The 29-year-old won gold in the men's combined at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. Ligety became the first gold medalist for the U.S. in Alpine skiing at the Sochi Games.

The other Americans didn’t fare well. Tim Jitloff finished 15th (2:47.13) and Jared Goldberg came in 19th (2:47.48).

Bode Miller, who won the bronze in the Super G earlier this week, finished 20th with a time of 2:47.82.