Armin Zoeggeler

Armin Zoeggeler chosen as Italy’s flag bearer for opening ceremony

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Before he attempts Olympic history, Armin Zoeggeler will carry his nation’s flag into the opening ceremony at the Sochi Olympics.

Zoeggeler, who turns 40 on Jan. 4, could become the first Winter Olympian to win six medals in a single event if he can make the luge podium Feb. 9.

Zoeggeler won gold in 2002 and 2006, silver in 1998 and bronze in 1994 and 2010.

“He’s the greatest athlete of all time in his sport,” Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago said, according to The Associated Press. “I’m very pleased with this choice.”

The list of five-time Olympic medalists in one event also includes Zoeggeler’s former rival, Georg Hackl of Germany, who won three golds and two silvers from 1998 through 2002.

Zoeggeler will likely not be favored to take home his sixth medal in Sochi. He reached the podium three times in nine events on the World Cup circuit last year, including a fourth place in Sochi. He skipped the World Championships in February to recover from injuries, which included back and neck problems.

The reigning Olympic, world and World Cup champion Felix Loch of Germany was 4 years old when Zoeggeler won his first Olympic medal.

Zoeggeler was also Italy’s flag bearer at the 2006 Torino Olympics closing ceremony.

The Sochi luge competition begins the night after the opening ceremony.

Italy closer to bid for 2024 Olympics

Mikaela Shiffrin likely to return next week

Mikaela Shiffrin
AP
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Mikaela Shiffrin will probably race the next World Cup slalom in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, next Monday, according to the Denver Post.

Shiffrin, 20 and the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup slalom champion, has been out since suffering a right MCL tear and a bone fracture in a Dec. 12 warm-up crash.

Her timetable for a return this season has shifted in the last eight weeks.

The rescheduling of a canceled Jan. 31 slalom for next Monday changed her previous plans to return the final weekend of February, according to the report.

“Our goal is to have her be really close to 100 percent, if not 100 percent [before competing],” said Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, in an earlier Denver Post report. “We’ve heard all these horror stories about athletes who went back too soon and then sustained injuries that did end their careers.”

The World Cup season concludes March 20. There are four slaloms left on the calendar, and Shiffrin trails slalom standings leader Frida Hansdotter by 305 points.

A winner receives 100 points per victory, so Shiffrin could take her fourth straight World Cup season title, but it would all but require her to win all four remaining slaloms and for Hansdotter (and others) to struggle.

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Tony Parker plans to play in Olympic qualifying, Rio Games

Tony Parker
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Tony Parker said he plans to play in both Olympic qualifying in July and the Rio Games in August, according to L’Equipe.

Parker, 33, previously said he could miss the tournaments this summer, at least in part due to his wife’s pregnancy, according to French media.

Parker said his wife is due in late July, which would fall in between France’s Olympic qualifying tournament (July 4-10 in the Philippines) and the Rio Games (Aug. 6-21).

Parker led France at the 2012 Olympics with 15.7 points per game. The French lost two games in London, to the gold medalist U.S. in group play and silver medalist Spain in the quarterfinals.

Parker led all players with 19 points per game at 2013 EuroBasket, won by France.

In September, Parker and France fell in the EuroBasket semifinals to Spain in a winner-goes-to-Rio game.

The defeat forced France to a last-chance, winner-take-all, six-team Olympic qualifying tournament in the Philippines in July.

In the Philippines, France will face a field that includes Canada, which had nine NBA players on its roster (including Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins) at August’s FIBA Americas yet was stunned in a winner-goes-to-Rio game by Venezuela, which had zero NBA players.

France is likely to be without Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah this summer as he underwent season-ending left shoulder surgery in January and hasn’t played a major tournament for the national team since 2011 EuroBasket.

Other French NBA players include Charlotte Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw and Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier.

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