North Pole

Sochi Olympic torch relay begins trek to North Pole

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Over the next two weeks, the Olympic flame will journey to and from the North Pole.

One of the most ambitious parts of the Sochi Olympic torch relay has started, according to Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee president Dmitry Chernyshenko.

The flame is aboard Russian icebreaker ship “50 years of victory” and will travel more then 3,000 miles from Murmansk, Russia, to the North Pole for a lighting ceremony and back to Murmansk.

Among the torch bearers for the North Pole trip is an American, University of Alaska Fairbanks Vice Chancellor Pat Pitney. Pitney, 48, won a gold medal in shooting at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“It is humbling to be selected to represent the United States, Alaska, the Arctic, UAF and the Olympic movement,” Pitney said in a press release, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “Imagine, carrying the Olympic torch around the North Pole; I am so excited.”

Torch bearers before the North Pole trip included those who carried torches during the Moscow 1980 Olympic torch relay.

A torch — but not the flame — is expected to go into space and reach the International Space Station in November.

The torch design has been tweaked for the space mission to prevent it from slipping out of a bearer’s grip during a spacewalk, according to R-Sport.

An unlit torch with an extra tether attached is to be carried into open space by cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, during which time it will orbit Earth several times, said the head of the Cosmonauts’ Training Center Sergei Krikalev.

“The Olympic torch for space is just like the one for Earth, but there will be no gas in it,” he said.

“To take it into open space the object was reworked: An extra fixing element has been added to attach a tether to, just so it doesn’t happen to fly away,” Krikalev added.

Dolphin to be part of torch relay

Francesco Friedrich wins historic fourth straight bobsled world title

German bob team, Francesco Friedrich, right, and Thorsten Margis, celebrate their victory  after the men's  two-man bob race at the  Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships at Lake Koenigssee, Germany, Sunday Feb. 19. 2017. (Angelika Warmuth/dpa via AP)
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KOENIGSSEE, Germany (AP) — Germany’s Francesco Friedrich was again fastest in both runs to extend his lead and beat Justin Kripps of Canada for his fourth straight world championship in two-man bobsled on Sunday.

Friedrich, who held a 0.52-lead from Saturday’s opening heats, clocked 49.17 seconds and then 48.94 with his brakeman Thorsten Margis for a combined time of 3 minutes, 16.71 seconds after four runs — 1.20 ahead of Kripps and Jesse Lumsden.

The 26-year-old Friedrich says “We were simply unbeatable this week.”

Germany’s Johannes Lochner was 1.25 back in third with Joshua Bluhm, ahead of Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis of Latvia, Nick Poloniato and Neville Wright of Canada, and Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga of Latvia.

American pilot Steven Holcomb was seventh with Carlo Valdes, 1.68 back.

A skeleton and bobsled team competition was scheduled later Sunday.

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Marcel Hirscher reclaims slalom title, wraps up ‘perfect worlds’

ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 17:  Gold medalist Marcel Hirscher of Austria celebrates on the podium following the Men's Giant Slalom during the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships on February 17, 2017 in St Moritz, Switzerland.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Austrian Marcel Hirscher reclaimed the slalom world title, wrapping up what he called “the perfect world championships” with two golds and one silver in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Sunday.

Hirscher, the five-time reigning World Cup overall champion, prevailed by .68 of a second combining two runs. Fellow Austrian Manuel Feller earned silver, followed by German Felix Neureuther, .93 behind.

Hirscher’s biggest slalom rival, Henrik Kristoffersen, was a disappointing fourth, giving Norway fourth-place finishers in all five men’s events at worlds.

The top American was David Chodounsky in 12th.

Full Results | Race Replay

Hirscher led by .43 after the morning run and had the third-fastest second run. He finished worlds with golds in the giant slalom and slalom and silver in the super combined, missing gold by .01. All that despite entering worlds sick, reportedly spending days ill in bed.

He said that super combined silver, and especially his maiden GS title, took the pressure off Sunday.

“It was super easy for me, mentally, to [go] into this race,” Hirscher said. “It doesn’t matter if I straddle at the first gate. The only thing that wouldn’t be fine is skiing slow.”

Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season. No other man has won that many, consecutive or not. He previously won the slalom world title in 2013, then was upset at the Sochi Olympics, taking silver behind countryman Mario Matt, who at 34 became the oldest Olympic Alpine champion.

Hirscher led the 2015 Worlds slalom by .88 after the first run, then straddled a gate near the end of the second run while his lead was evaporating.

Hirscher has already proven his excellence on the World Cup and world championships stages. It’s PyeongChang where he must deliver, since he lacks Olympic gold. Hirscher is only 27 years old, but he has cast doubt on going all the way to the 2022 Winter Games.

Feller, 24, took surprise silver without a World Cup podium to his name.

Neureuther earned his third straight world slalom medal, but none have been gold.

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