Ted Ligety

Ted Ligety, Bode Miller go 1-2 in Beaver Creek giant slalom (video)

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Ted Ligety dominated as usual. Bode Miller looked like the Miller of old.

The Americans went one-two in a World Cup giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday. It marked the first time the U.S. put two men on a World Cup podium since Jan. 17, 2009.

The world champion Ligety won in a two-run time of 2 minutes, 35.77 seconds. He beat Miller by a comfortable 1.32 seconds. Miller was a half-second faster than third-place Austrian Marcel Hirscher, the reigning World Cup overall champion.

“It’s cool having Bode back,” Ligety said on NBCSN. “He just showed a tremendous amount of speed, for sure. He’s so up and down in training. What he just did there was really awesome. It’s cool to finally have another American, right up there pushing me in training and racing.”

Ligety won his fourth straight World Cup giant slalom dating to last season. The last man to win four straight giant slaloms was Italian Alberto Tomba in 1991.

The last man to win five straight was Swede Ingemar Stenmark, who won all 10 giant slaloms in 1978-79 and is the all time World Cup wins leader with 86.

Ligety had plenty of margin for error in the second run after taking a 1.1-second lead over Miller in the morning run.

“Second run was tough,” Ligety said on NBCSN. “It got pretty dark again, pretty bumpy, too. It’s nice to have a 1.2 cushion, so you don’t have to take too many risks. I’m pretty psyched.”

Miller tried to put pressure on Ligety by posting the fastest second run in the 30-man field, but Ligety, the final skier, was .22 faster in a conservative run through tough conditions on a snowy afternoon.

“Ted is the most clutch skier there’s been,” Miller said on NBCSN. “When he has a first-run lead, he loses it less than anybody. So I wanted to make sure I put him in the position of knowing that I had come down and stuck a run. He lived up to it again today.”

Ligety, 29, has now won 19 career World Cup races, all giant slaloms. In February, he became the first man in 45 years to win three gold medals at a single World Championships.

Miller, 36, posted his first top 10 of the season in his sixth race. The five-time Olympic medalist missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery.

Miller’s last World Cup podium was Feb. 3, 2012. His last World Cup giant slalom podium was March 17, 2007.

Miller won an Olympic silver medal in the giant slalom in 2002, but he’s become more of a speed-event skier over the last decade. The U.S. went one-two in a World Cup giant slalom for the first time in eight years.

Back then, it was Miller and Daron Rahlves. Like Ligety, Miller is excited to have competition from a countryman as Sochi nears.

“It’s the best,” Miller said on NBCSN. “Me and Daron had that. Ted’s been so strong now, for a bunch of years, in GS. I just haven’t had it where it needed to be, injury wise or intensity wise or conditioning wise.

“It’s been a long time coming for us. It was a big challenge for me to come back.”

The Alpine skiing World Cup continues in Val d’Isere, France, next weekend. They will race a giant slalom Saturday and a slalom Sunday.

Beaver Creek Giant Slalom
1. Ted Ligety (USA) 2:35.77
2. Bode Miller (USA) 2:37.09
3. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 2:37.59
4. Mathieu Faivre (FRA) 2:38.61
5. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) 2:38.71
6. Carlo Janka (SUI) 2:38.78
7. Felix Neureuther (GER) 2:38.82
8. Leif Kristian Haugen (NOR) 2:38.83
9. Stefan Luitz (GER) 2:38.98
10. Roberto Nani (ITA) 2:39.00
33. Tim Jitloff (USA)
36. Brennan Rubie (USA)
44. Warner Nickerson (USA)
51. Robby Kelley (USA)

Video: Lindsey Vonn ‘ready for Sochi’ after best comeback result

French ice dancers break world record again

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French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron broke their own world record scores in the last major competition before the Olympics.

Papadakis and Cizeron totaled 203.16 points with 121.87 in Saturday’s free dance at the European Championships, both new bests, in Moscow.

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

The French go into the Olympics as favorites over Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won all three of their head-to-heads last season.

But the French finally overcame the 2010 Olympic champions Virtue and Moir at December’s Grand Prix Final.

Virtue and Moir rank No. 2 under an eight-year-old ice dance system with a personal best of 199.86 points.

Papadakis and Cizeron became the youngest world champions in ice dance in 40 years in 2015, then repeated as world champs in 2016.

Virtue and Moir returned after two years off for the 2016-17 season and went undefeated, including dethroning the French at worlds.

Three U.S. couples are the top contenders for the Olympic bronze medal.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White have not competed since becoming the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champions in Sochi.

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MORE: NBC Olympics PyeongChang preview series on Netflix

Tonga flag bearer from Rio says he qualified for Winter Olympics

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Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless, oiled-up Tongan flag bearer from the Rio Games, said he qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics in cross-country skiing on Saturday.

“This was my last race possible, and we did it,” Taufatofua said in an interview with Olympic Channel, which also reported that he qualified. “This is a miracle.”

Taufatofua said he qualified at the final weekend of the Olympic qualifying period in Iceland, which is more than 9,000 miles from his home archipelago.

The last two events before qualification ends were Saturday’s freestyle race and a classic race scheduled for Sunday. Saturday’s results have not been posted yet.

Taufatofua completed a journey this season that included races in Colombia, Turkey, Poland and Armenia.

Taufatofua said he had seven chances to qualify for PyeongChang before Saturday and failed in all of them, finishing last each time (The official results show Taufatofua beating skiers from Malaysia and Mexico in some of these races.).

Taufatofua scrambled to make it to Iceland from Croatia this week. He said his group drove three days through a blizzard, an avalanche closing off the road at one point.

“People don’t see the hard work that goes behind,” he said. “They just see the shiny guy that walks with the flag.”

Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule in Rio, two weeks after his viral appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

He announced in December 2016 that he was switching to cross-country skiing in a bid for PyeongChang.

Cross-country, while a physically taxing pursuit, is one of the easier Winter Olympic sports to gain qualification for athletes from nations without much Winter Games history.

“I decided to find the hardest sport possible because I needed a new challenge,” Taufatofua said. “The goal was to do it one year, and we did it.”

Taufatofua debuted at the 2017 World Championships and was 153rd of 156 finishers in the 1.6km sprint freestyle.

It took Taufatofua 5 minutes, 44.72 seconds to complete the course in Lahti, Finland, which was about 10,000 miles from Tonga. The top qualifier clocked 3:11.72.

How will he dress at the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony, where outdoor temperatures are likely to be below freezing?

“One step at a time,” Taufatofua said. “Right now, I just want to go and party. I destroyed myself just to get here.”

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary.

Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

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VIDEO: Shaun White scores perfect 100 to qualify for Olympics

I raced through 5 countries in the last 24hrs to try and get to my race in Croatia. I sat in a taxi for 6 hrs driving through Armenia into Georgia in the middle of the night. I sat on the front seat of the @turkishairlines plane, sprinted through the airport and snuck through the business class fast transit lane and somehow managed to arrive at the gate 15 min before departure for my flight to Croatia. Once there I found that @turkishairlines had shut the gate early even after their delayed initial flight from Georgia, leaving me stranded. After remembering a scene from a James Bond movie, I pressed all the buttons on the aerobridge door to see if I could somehow open it and sprint down to the connecting flight, unfortunately that didn’t work, and luckily I didn’t get arrested. So here I am sitting at Istanbul airport missing the race that could have possibly gotten me to the Olympics. It was always going to be a long shot but I had to give it a shot and I did. Soo many times in life we will get disappointed. When this happens I have two options. I can sit on that chair crying about what could have been and how unfair life is…. or I can go and find some good quality chocolate, pull out my notepad and start planning “what’s next”— I always did like chocolate…

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