Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin on Olympic torch-NHL opener journey: ‘We just have to find a plane’

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Alex Ovechkin is ready to rack up airline miles. Hopefully, he can sleep on a plane.

Ovechkin confirmed Tuesday the news that he will travel to Greece to start the Sochi Olympic torch relay Sept. 29, two days before the Washington Capitals’ season begins in Chicago. He does not intend to miss any games.

“We just have to find a plane,” Ovechkin said, according to The Associated Press.

A flight from Washington, D.C., to Athens is 10 hours, 47 minutes, according to flightmath.com. Athens is 160 miles west of Olympia, where the torch relay starts.

Ovechkin said his agent is working with the organizers of the Sochi Games to figure out the logistics. He joked he could “take some medicine” to sleep while flies back and forth across the Atlantic. It helps that the Capitals aren’t scheduled to practice on Sept. 29, but he’ll want to be back in time join his teammates on the ice the next day for their final skate before traveling to Chicago.

“It’s a huge honor for me,” Ovechkin said, according to the AP. “I’m very proud the Russian federation asked me to do that. … It’s only a once in your life opportunity to carry the torch and represent your country.”

Ovechkin is considered one of Russia’s biggest stars heading into the Olympics. The Russian hockey team’s task is clear, to win the nation’s first Olympic hockey title. The Soviet Union won every title from 1964 to 1988, except 1980, and the Unified Team won in 1992. But “Russia” has never finished better than second, as it did in 1998.

One of the stars of the 1998 team, Pavel Bure, recently declared Russia an ‘indisputable’ favorite next year. Canadians, Americans, Swedes, Finns and Czechs may not agree with that statement.

Also, tight travel is nothing new for Olympic hockey. Recall American Jack Johnson, who was determined to participate in the 2010 Olympic opening ceremony even though the hockey competition didn’t start for another four days and the NHL was not yet on its break.

The Los Angeles Times and NHL.com were among the outlets to report the details of his journey:

Johnson, then a member of the Kings, finished a Thursday shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers the day before the cauldron was lit in Vancouver. At 6 a.m. on Friday morning, he took a two-hour charter flight to Bellingham, Wash., then hired a driver to take him across the border for Friday night’s ceremony.

After the Friday ceremony, he drove back to Washington and took another charter flight home to make it to Kings practice at 10 a.m. Saturday.

U.S., Russia reveal Olympic hockey jerseys

Lara Gut wins Lake Louise super-G, closes gap on Mikaela Shiffrin

SOELDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 22: Lara Gut of Switzerland takes 1st place during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Giant Slalom on October 22, 2016 in Soelden, Austria (Photo by Michel Cottin/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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The early portion of the Alpine skiing season indicates the battle for the women’s World Cup overall title could be very close between Lara Gut and Mikaela Shiffrin.

Gut stated her case again Sunday, winning a super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, picking up 100 points and drawing to within 28 of the leader Shiffrin in the standings. They are through seven of a scheduled 37 races.

Shiffrin, so strong this fall, took a step back with a 34th-place finish under falling snow Sunday, the race delayed by 75 minutes due to the weather.

LAKE LOUISE: Full results | Race replay

Shiffrin had placed 18th and 13th in her first World Cup downhills the previous two days. She was 15th in the Lake Louise super-G one year ago, her World Cup debut in that discipline.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion and a World Cup giant slalom winner, is turning into an overall title threat for two reasons.

One, her addition of speed disciplines to pick up extra points (she added 33 points this weekend). Two, the absence of past overall champions Lindsey Vonn and Anna Veith due to injuries and Tina Maze due to a retirement (after a home finale).

Shiffrin’s best World Cup overall standings finish before this season was fourth two seasons ago.

Gut, though, is a proven winner in downhill, super-G and giant slalom and arguably hitting her prime at age 25. Shiffrin is 21 and not entirely comfortable in speed races.

Shiffrin can look forward to the upcoming World Cup schedule. Nine of the next 12 races are technical events — her specialties — giving her a great chance to hold the World Cup overall standings lead into mid-January.

The women’s World Cup moves to Sestriere, Italy, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom. Shiffrin has won her last 10 World Cup slaloms, two shy of the record streak for any women’s event.

MORE: Ted Ligety seconds behind in continued return from torn ACL

Ted Ligety seconds behind as he continues return from ACL tear

VAL D'ISERE, FRANCE - DECEMBER 04: Ted Ligety of USA competes during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Giant Slalom on December 4, 2016 in Val d'Isere, France (Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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If Ted Ligety is to become the world’s best giant slalom skier again, it’s going to take some time.

On Sunday, the Olympic and world champion placed 11th in his second GS since tearing his right ACL in January.

The 32-year-old Ligety was 2.63 seconds behind first-time French winner Mathieu Faivre after two runs in Val d’Isère, France.

“I didn’t feel that comfortable to push that hard and it showed in the time,” Ligety told media in Val d’Isère, according to the U.S. Ski Team.

Ligety was ninth following the first run, 1.37 seconds back of Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who fell to second, .49 behind Faivre, after the last run.

Ligety failed to build on his season-opening fifth place in Soelden, Austria, from Oct. 23, his first race in nine months. He said after Saturday’s finish that he feels like he’s skiing better than he was in October.

“I just need to be able to put it together and have the confidence to push hard,” Ligety said.

He has gone five straight World Cup giant slaloms without a podium, his longest drought since the 2006-07 season.

The U.S. put five men in the top 30 overall, with Ligety joined by Tommy Ford (14th), Tim Jitloff (18th), Ryan Cochran-Siegle (22nd) and David Chodounsky (27th).

VAL D’ISERE: Full results | Run 2 replay

NBCSN will air coverage of the Val d’Isère giant slalom on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, also streaming here, with six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller as an analyst.

The men’s World Cup stays in Val d’Isère for a giant slalom and slalom next weekend.

VIDEO: High-speed crash in Lake Louise women’s downhill