Ted Ligety

Ted Ligety plans race schedule for Sochi Olympics

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Ted Ligety, perhaps the top multiple-medal threat for the U.S., does not expect to enter every Alpine skiing event at the Sochi Olympics.

The two-time Olympian (and 2006 Olympic combined champion) raised expectations for his third Games by winning three gold medals at the World Championships in February.

Ligety, 29, swept the super-G, giant slalom and the super combined in Schladming, Austria, becoming the first man since French legend Jean-Claude Killy in 1968 to win three or more golds at a single worlds.

Ligety also entered the slalom but did not finish the first of two runs. He did not enter the downhill.

Which brings up the Sochi Olympics schedule. Ligety has never raced a downhill at an Olympics or a World Championships. That streak should continue in 2014.

The Park City, Utah, native said he plans to enter the same events in Sochi as he did in Schladming and at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics — super-G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined but no downhill.

“They (downhills) just take up too much time with three training runs and the race; really it’s a four-day event in a lot of ways,” he said. “If I want to prepare for the giant slalom, slalom and super-G as much as I’d like to, then that just doesn’t make too much sense. So, unless I’m winning downhills (this season), I don’t foresee myself doing the downhill at the Games.”

The downhill is the first event of the Alpine skiing calendar on Sunday, Feb. 9, two days after the opening ceremony. Ligety’s race schedule would begin a week after the opening ceremony:

Friday, Feb. 14 — super combined
Sunday, Feb. 16 — super-G
Wednesday, Feb. 19 — giant slalom
Saturday, Feb. 22 — slalom

Ligety raced in two of the eight downhills on last year’s World Cup circuit. He placed 31st in Beaver Creek, Colo., and did not finish in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

He’s readying for the first World Cup event of this season in his favorite discipline, giant slalom, in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 26. There, he’s expected to go head to head with his biggest rival, Austrian Marcel Hirscher.

Infostrada’s medal predictions for Sochi

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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