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

Ligety exits quietly, Hirscher brilliant again

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Marcel Hirscher, the Austrian ski god, is finally having his moment. King of the World Cup tour for the past seven seasons, on Sunday Hirscher won his second Olympic gold, in the giant slalom.

Hirscher had won a grand total of no Olympic medals, nada, zip, zero in two prior Games. Now he might — could, should — win three here at PyeongChang. The slalom, another Hirscher specialty, is due to be run Thursday.

To watch Hirscher ski is to watch one of the great athletes of our — or any — time. Like being courtside in Chicago to see Michael Jordan back in the day. At Wimbledon for a Roger Federer volley. At the Water Cube in Beijing in 2008 when Michael Phelps was swimming the butterfly.

In Sunday’s race, Kristoffersen finished second, 1.27 seconds back of Hirscher. Pinturault finished third, 1.31 behind.

American racer Ted Ligety used to own this event: the Sochi 2014 giant slalom gold medalist, he was world champion in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Pinturault took Sochi 2014 bronze.

Considering his relatively low slalom ranking and the pounding that slalom demands, Sunday’s GS was — just like that, that quickly, that quietly — likely the final race of Ligety’s outstanding Olympic career.

“This is probably it for me at these Games,” he said after run two, adding that he is planning to head back to Europe, to race the remainder of the World Cup season.

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Olympic ice dance figure skating preview

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While Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir already have a gold medal in PyeongChang from the team event, they’re back to regain their 2010 Olympic ice dance title.

The short dance is Sunday, February 18 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com and the free dance is Monday, February 19 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com.

Here are some names to know before the event kicks off:

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, Team USA

Credentials: Reigning U.S. national champions, first Olympic appearance is 2018

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, Team USA

Credentials: Three-time Worlds medalists, two-time U.S. national champions, 2014 Olympians, 2017 Grand Prix Final bronze medalists

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, Team USA
Buzz about Chock and Bates: They’re a couple on and off the ice, and say that’s given a new perspective to their athletic careers. They weren’t a couple when they competed together at the 2014 Olympics, so they believe this experience will be all the more special for it.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada
Credentials: 2010 Olympic champions, two-time Sochi 2014 silver medalists, three-time world champions, eight-time Canadian national champions.

Read the full ice dance preview here and watch figure skating highlights and streams