Ted Ligety poised to win third gold at worlds

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With two gold medals already in his pocket, Ted Ligety is the star of the 2013 Alpine World Ski Championships. And he hasn’t even skied the giant slalom yet; his best event.

If the 28-year old Utah native manages to notch a win in that event Friday, he’ll become only the fifth man to win three gold medals in a single world championships or Olympic Games, joining legends Jean-Claude Killy of France (the last man to do so in 1968), Emile Allais of France, Toni Sailer of Austria, and Stein Eriksen of Norway.

Heady company indeed, but even before Ligety lit up the worlds with his flawless skiing, he’d been dominating World Cup giant slaloms all season, winning four out of five races.

Even more impressive than this near perfect record is the manner in which he’s won. Back in October at the opening round of the World Cup in Sölden, Austria, Ligety bested the field by nearly three seconds, the biggest margin of victory in over 30 years. Subsequent wins have been similarly impressive.

The key has been a critical equipment change. New for the 2012-13 season, the FIS mandated that all giant slalom skis be longer and straighter, effectively pushing ski technology back to the 1980s. As a result, giant slalom racers are no longer able to charge straight at gates and jam on their edges to make quick line adjustments.

That’s fine by Ligety. Despite being one of the most vocal objectors to the change, the giant slalom specialist stood the most to gain. As one of the most gifted and technically sound skiers on the circuit, Ligety has always skied a cleaner, rounder line than his competitors, preferring to arc complete, edge-to-edge turns down an entire race course, instead of muscling his way around gates and drifting through turns.

So while other skiers have struggled to adjust to the new equipment, scrubbing speed every few gates in order to get back on line, Ligety has just kept on trucking, generating speed from turn-to-turn the entire way down the hill.

His one challenger could be current overall World Cup leader Marcel Hirscher, the only man to beat Ligety in giant slalom this season. The 23-year old Austrian, winner of four giant slaloms last season, as well as the discipline title, is finally adapting to the new equipment and would have beat Ligety in Adelboden, Switzerland last month had it not been for a crash right before the finish line. With host nation Austria uncharacteristically starved for medals, Hirscher will be hungry to dethrone “Mr. G.S.” in front of a home crowd.

But Ligety has momentum on his side. His gold medals in the super-G and combined came as complete surprises (he’d previously never won a super-G and hadn’t won a combined race since 2006), meaning that despite being the defending giant slalom World Champion, he’ll go into Friday’s race without any pressure.

Unless, of course, he starts thinking about records. Should he stay calm and win Friday’s giant slalom, however, Ligety will be propelled into the pantheon of all-time greats.

Oscar Pistorius’ family upset with delays in possible release

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SOMERSET WEST, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius‘ family criticized South African authorities on Tuesday for delays in deciding whether he should be released from jail and moved to house arrest, saying his rights were being “undermined” because of the publicity surrounding his case.

The family also reacted to parole officials’ recommendation that the double-amputee runner undergo psychotherapy, saying he was already receiving “regular and ongoing” psychotherapy from both his personal and prison psychologists.

The Pistorius family spoke out in a written statement after his early release — which had been granted in June — was canceled Monday and ordered to be reconsidered.

“This experience leaves us with the uncomfortable conclusion that the public, political and media hype that was allowed to develop around Oscar’s trial has undermined his right to be treated like any other prisoner,” Pistorius’ family said.

The family expressed concerns over the “legality” of canceling Pistorius’ release.

Pistorius was approved to be released on Aug. 21 after serving 10 months of his five-year manslaughter sentence for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In a fairly common procedure in South Africa for offenders sentenced to five years or less, he would have been moved from jail after one-sixth of the sentence to serve the remainder under correctional supervision at home.

But the justice minister intervened two days before Pistorius was to leave jail and ordered a review on a legal technicality, saying the parole board met two months too early. After a seven-week delay, officials reviewing Pistorius’ case on Monday sent it back to that original parole board to consider all over again.

“We cannot understand … why the matter is now to be referred back to the parole board that has no reason to make a different decision from the one that was made in the first place,” the Pistorius family said.

MORE PISTORIUS: Pistorius’ top rival wants him to race again

Carolina Kostner wants to return to competition

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MILAN (AP) — With her suspension coming to an end, Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner already has her sights set on the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.

The Italian figure skater will be eligible to return to competition on Jan. 1 after serving a suspension for helping her ex-boyfriend evade doping controls.

”The desire is there, and it includes also obviously a possible Olympics,” the 28-year-old Kostner said Tuesday.

Kostner received clearance this week from the Court of Arbitration for Sport to return to competition next year after agreeing to have her 16-month suspension extended by five months, but then backdated, freeing her to skate earlier than anticipated.

As part of the agreement, Kostner also agreed to act as a spokeswoman against doping, her lawyer said.

But Kostner said it was too soon to lay out a program for her comeback.

”Knowing that I can return to competition in 2016 gives me great strength and great serenity to make a decision,” Kostner said.

Italian skating federation president Andrea Gioss said it would be difficult for Kostner to qualify for the European Championships from Jan. 25-31 because of time constraints. She would have time to qualify for the World Championships in Boston in March by picking up points at sanctioned international competitions.

As she has in the past, Kostner admitted she ”made an error,” by helping her ex-boyfriend, Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer, evade a doping test and other infractions. She has said she was unaware he was doping.

”This period for me was a moment of great growth and maturation,” she said, adding she has broken off all contact with Schwazer but did not wish him ill.

Kostner, who missed out on the Worlds last year but won bronze at the Sochi Olympics, said she has been concentrating on the artistic aspects of skating since the suspension took effect in January, and will be able to return to full training in federation-sanctioned rinks from Nov. 1. In the meantime, she is preparing for an ice show in Verona this week, and spent last winter in a dance studio practicing ballet.

Kostner said she misses competing but that she had nothing to prove by returning to the rink.

”I have a big trove of experience, Olympics that have gone well, Olympics gone badly, falls, getting back up,” Kostner said. ”In a certain sense, I feel the desire and need to give it all meaning, if only to be part of a team and have the young future Italian champion turn to me and ask advice, `You, at those moments, what did you do?”’

MORE FIGURE SKATING: New star emerges at Japan Open