Ted Ligety

Ted Ligety fifth in Beaver Creek super-G; Swiss wins (video)

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If Ted Ligety is going to be a multiple-medal threat in Sochi, he must produce strong results outside the giant slalom.

He took a step in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Saturday, with his third top-five super-G finish over the last four World Cup seasons.

Ligety navigated the Birds of Prey course in 1 minute, 22.21 seconds, which was good for fifth place, .48 behind Swiss winner Patrick Kueng.

“My super-G has a big range,” Ligety said, according to USA Today. “When it’s steep, I’m one of the fastest guys. If it’s flat and easy, I’m one of the middle-of-the-pack guys. So it depends where my skill set falls in there. So when it’s steep, like it is here for the most part, I have a good chance of making up time. When it’s more moderate, guys like Aksel [Lund Svindal] have a chance to beat me every time.”

Kueng, 29, who finished fifth in the previous two World Cup races, won his first career World Cup race.

“I knew I was in a good shape, in training I was fast,” Kueng said on NBC. “It’s incredible.”

Austrian Otmar Striedinger, who had never finished better than 17th in a World Cup, was second, .24 behind. Hannes Reichelt of Austria and Peter Fill of Italy shared third. Norway’s Svindal, who won the downhill Friday, came in seventh to keep his overall World Cup lead.

Ligety, 29, dominated at the World Championships in February, winning the giant slalom, super-G and super combined. He became the first man in 45 years to win three gold medals at a single worlds.

But Ligety had never before won an international super-G or super combined race (he won the 2006 Olympic combined). He missed a gate in last week’s super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta.

Ligety will be the favorite when the Beaver Creek World Cup stop concludes with a giant slalom at 11:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday. NBCSN will have coverage at 3 p.m. ET.

Ligety is the reigning World Cup and world champion in the giant slalom. He won the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27.

“My slalom is like fine china,” he said, according to USA Today. “It’s really nice and looks pretty sometimes and it can be fast, but if you drop it, it breaks easily. Whereas maybe my giant slalom is like an iron skillet, where you can kick it around and do anything with it and it holds up. That’s been a little bit frustrating for me, but that’s how it kind of goes sometimes in ski racing.”

On Saturday, Olympic super-G silver medalist Bode Miller placed 14th, one spot lower than his season-best downhill finish Friday. Miller, 36 and a four-time Olympian, missed all of last season following knee surgery.

Miller said he skied “pretty close” to the peak of his ability, according to the Denver Post.

“There’s three really blind turns there that are pretty nasty at high speed at the top, and I hit all three of them within a foot of where I wanted to be, at full speed,” Miller told the newspaper. “For me, that’s really encouraging.”

Beaver Creek super-G
1. Patrick Kueng (SUI) 1:21.73
2. Otmar Striedinger (AUT) 1:21.97
3. Hannes Reichelt (AUT) 1:22.11
3. Peter Fill (ITA) 1:22.11
5. Ted Ligety (USA) 1:22.21
6. Thomas Mermillod Blondin (FRA) 1:22.27
7. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) 1:22.34
8. Werner Heel (ITA) 1:22.41
9. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR) 1:22.64
10. Matthias Mayer (AUT) 1:22.66
14. Bode Miller (USA) 1:22.98
20. Andrew Weibrecht (USA) 1:23.29
37. Steven Nyman (USA) 1:24.02
47. Marco Sullivan (USA) 1:25.09
DNF. Nick Daniels (USA)
DNF. Erik Fisher (USA)
DNF. Travis Ganong (USA)
DNF. Jared Goldberg (USA)
DNF. Brennan Rubie (USA)

Russian man, 101, is oldest Olympic relay torchbearer

IIHF president doesn’t expect NHL participation in 2018 Olympics

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The head of ice hockey’s international body says there’s a strong possibility that NHL players won’t be competing at the next Winter Olympics.

International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel puts the chances at 60 percent that the NHL will decline to go to the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, because of a lack of money to cover player insurance.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Fasel said the IOC has canceled its contribution to player travel and insurance costs for Pyeongchang, leaving the IIHF facing a $10 million shortfall and “begging” for money around the world.

“It’s always difficult to get (to) the Olympics, the Games,” he said. “And now with some problems on our side, 50-50 is very positive. I would be more 60 percent that they are not coming.”

Negotiations and brinkmanship over finances are common in the lead-up to Olympic hockey tournaments. For the 2014 tournament in Sochi, Russia, the NHL’s participation was assured only in July 2013, seven months before the games. But the IOC’s refusal to cover player insurance adds an additional dimension for 2018.

While the IOC gives the IIHF around $40 million of revenue each Olympics, Fasel insists that money is earmarked for developing hockey and wants national Olympic committees and hockey federations to plug the gap.

The IOC pulled its extra subsidy because its leaders are “a bit scared that other (sports) federations will come and also ask for some compensation for traveling and insurance,” said Fasel, who is also an IOC member and serves on its rule-making executive board.

“I think my idea is to work closer together with the national Olympic committees, as they have normally to pay transportation and insurance for the athletes when they come to the games, so I can imagine that some of the NOCs are also ready to spend some money there, so we have to go around and do some begging,” he said.

Fasel said the end of this year is the deadline to reach a deal because of the NHL’s need to draw up a calendar for the Olympic season.

“If you don’t have the best, (the Olympics) will be a different competition for sure,” he said, but warned: “At the end somebody has to pay. That’s the question. On my side I will do everything possible to make it happen.”

Fasel also dismissed the suggestion that the NHL’s revived World Cup of Hockey could offer some players less incentive to demand to be allowed to play at the Olympics.

“There is nothing like the Olympics,” he said. “I think for an athlete to win the gold medal is so different from winning the Stanley Cup. You can win the Stanley Cup every year.”

In Pyeongchang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022, the Winter Olympics move to Asia and away from the North American and European nations that have historically been the bedrock of hockey.

South Korea, which has built a team mixing import players with locals, plays in the second level of the IIHF’s world championship and hopes not to be a walkover in 2018. China, however, is far less competitive.

After losses to Iceland and Spain last month, China will be in the fifth tier for next year and in 2022 could become the first Winter Olympic host not to enter a hockey team — a situation which worries the IIHF, given China’s potential to become a huge market for the sport.

“One thing they do not like is to lose the face, so they cannot do that,” Fasel said. “I hope and I think they will have a Chinese player, Chinese team in Beijing in 2022. We cannot put them on the ice and they will be beaten 15, 20-nothing. We cannot do that.”

Things are looking up for China, with increased government interest and the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League due to open a team there this year, but Fasel said the NHL is key to unlocking potentially vast commercial rewards in China.

“A North American brand in China has a very special taste. We can see that with the NBA,” he said. “I think what we need is to have a Chinese NHL player, like Yao Ming with basketball.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic men’s hockey groups determined

Olympic flame arrives in Brazil (video)

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BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — The Brazilian torch relay for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics kicked off Tuesday with double gold-medal winning volleyball player Fabiana Claudino running the first leg after the torch was ignited by embattled President Dilma Rousseff.

“Brazil is ready to host the most successful Olympics in history,” Rousseff said in a speech to start the three-month relay around the country.

Rousseff is expected to be suspended from office next week as the country’s senate hears an impeachment case against her, which means Vice President Michel Temer is likely to be president when the Games open at the Maracana stadium on Aug. 5.

The Olympic flame arrived in a lantern on a flight from Switzerland and was taken to the Planalto presidential palace.

The relay across Brazil will involve 329 cities and 12,000 torchbearers. Rio organizers hope it will build enthusiasm for the games, which has lagged as Brazil battles bribery and corruption scandals, its deepest recession in decades and the Zika virus outbreak.

Rousseff spoke for 20 minutes, promising Rio is ready with completed venues and top security.

“Brazil is completely ready to offer protection to the athletes, the technical staffs, heads of delegations, tourists, and journalists – to all our visitors,” she said.

Rousseff said the country was working with international security agencies “who have experience with terrorism.”

“The Olympic torch will be received with joy in all cities in our immense Brazil,” she said. “The flame will illuminate a hospitable and responsible country.”

She also touched on the political and economic turmoil rocking South America’s largest country.

“We know political problems exist in our country today,” she said. “We know there is political instability. Brazil will be capable in a difficult period, a very difficult, critical period in the history of our democracy of dealing with the problems. … It’s important to fight, and we know how to fight.”

Security experts are expecting protests during the relay, and on Tuesday a few hundred protesters gathered on a relay route controlled with a heavy police presence.

One sign in English read: “OlyImpeachment is here.”

Colonel Jose Vicente da Silva, a former head of public security, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he expects demonstrations along the route.

“Wherever the torch goes, there will be a camera on it,” Silva said. “There will be banners for or against President Rousseff. There is a chance of big protests during the torch relay.”

MORE: Rio Olympic flame will live downtown — not in stadium