U.S. Alpine team experiencing power outage

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Four years ago, after four events up at Whistler, the U.S. Alpine ski team could boast five Olympic medals, two of them gold.

Here, after four events, the count for the Americans: one medal, Julia Mancuso’s bronze in the super-combined, the event that mixes one race of downhill and one of slalom.

The men’s super-combined Friday, for instance, featured the Vancouver 2010 gold medalist, Bode Miller, and the 2013 world champ in the event, Ted Ligety. If ever a race seemed tailor-made for the U.S. team to win one or more medals — here it was.

VIDEO: Ted Ligety — “It was a choke”

Miller finished sixth, Ligety 12th.

Ligety, afterward: “I choked, for sure.”

Miller: “I was pretty lousy.”

Is it, well, all gloom and doom for the U.S. Ski Team, which — truthfully — in recent years has done much to back up its audacious claim to be “best in the world”?

Or do the first days of the 2014 Winter Games more accurately reflect a broader truth?

Which is: Alpine skiing is a hard game. Nothing — repeat, nothing — is guaranteed. To win, you have to be really good, conditions have to be right and, frankly, the breaks have to break your way.

That’s what happened in Vancouver.

Lindsey Vonn won two medals in 2010, including gold in the downhill. She is not here, injured.

Would she have won the downhill here? Who knows. But let’s be real.

Healthy, would she — the winner of 59 World Cup races and four World Cup season overall titles — have changed the dynamic of Wednesday’s downhill? Absolutely.

VIDEO: Wife to Bode Miller — “I need positivity out of you”

Miller won three medals in Vancouver, including that super-combined gold. He caught lightning in a bottle in 2010. He seemingly came to Sochi on a roll and absolutely dominated the three downhill training races. Then, though, he took eighth in the race itself last Sunday when the light changed, afterward saying that he hadn’t won a race in five years in flat light and maybe needs corrective eye surgery.

In good light Friday for the downhill portion of the super-combi, he made a mistake between the second and third intervals, going wide on a turn, that cost him precious time. In the second run, he simply hasn’t put in enough slalom time this season to hammer as hard as he needs but nonetheless went for it, all out, as only he can, in a course set by Croatia’s Ante Kostelic, father of the eventual silver medalist, Ivica Kostelic.

A Kostelic slalom set is full of unusual rhythms. A typical course on today’s World Cup circuit can be almost mind-numbingly repetitive in its precision, the gates seemingly fixed almost by laser and a drill. A Kostelic course hearkens back to the old days, with gates set in ways meant to punctuate a racer’s traverse down and across the mountain.

VIDEO: Miller explains why race was so challenging

It was a Kostelic set at the Vancouver slalom in the super-combi as well. So Miller knew, more or less, what to expect.

“Obviously,” Miller said, “I should have skied better in the downhill,” because he ended that 1.43 seconds behind the first-run leader, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, who would eventually finish fourth.

“I mean, but — if I skied well, I would have been a second faster, probably, and that puts me on the podium. But I should have skied a second and a half faster in the slalom, and that would have put me on the podium.

“These days, in these conditions, you can’t make mistakes. I went through today pushing hard. I’m trying to do everything I can to be fast. The margins,” he said, are so small right now.”

Ligety, meanwhile, the 2006 combined gold medalist, had put himself — he thought — in excellent position after the downhill to prevail. He was 1.93 back after the first run. Unlike Miller, though, he had confidence in his slalom. The Koselic course set, he said, turned out to be “easier than I thought it would be.”

And yet, he said, “I definitely skied way too conservatively. That’s definitely frustrating.”

VIDEO: Three fences go down in crash

He added, as an explanation, “I just respected it too much. I respected the course too much.”

Switzerland’s Sandro Viletta won Friday. To give you an idea about the variability of ski racing, even at this level: Viletta has never won a World Cup super-combined. “At the moment,” he said, “I cannot believe this is true.”

Kostelic’s silver was the fourth in his career, and he offered beautiful testimony about it.: “One should not be unthankful for the silver. First of all, I could be anywhere. I could be in a hospital right now. I could be picking garbage in Calcutta or dying of hunger in Africa. Anyone who complains about silver or bronze doesn’t have the right to do so.”

Italy’s Christof Innerhofer won bronze; he won silver in the downhill. He had no expectation of winning a medal Friday, saying that in the slalom start house, “I was thinking of nothing. I was relaxed because I was thinking I didn’t have a chance … it is crazy I can be here [on the podium] today.”

Here, then, is the reality about ski racing.

Things might continue like this throughout these 2014 Games for the U.S. alpine team.

Then again, as the women’s halfpipe team — two medals of three — and the men’s ski slopestylers — a podium sweep — made abundantly plain, things might turn around, and fast.

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“I mean, it’s a bummer,” Ligety said. “It would have been nice to get a medal today.”

But, he said, “There’s still a lot of events left. There’s still a lot of racing.” And, he said, “It’s all totally different racing than it was today.”

Rio Olympic equestrian may be moved outside Brazil

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The head of the Brazilian Equestrian Confederation has warned that equestrian events at next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics might have to take place outside Brazil.

Luiz Roberto Giugni blasted the country’s Agriculture Ministry for delays in issuing documentation needed to allow horses brought into Brazil from Europe, the United States and Canada to leave the country.

He warned that if the ministry doesn’t act before the end of the month, “we run the risk of not having the event in Brazil.”

Regulations for bringing horses to and from Brazil are strict. The country is still subject to diseases affecting horses, including glanders, a lethal bacterial infection recently diagnosed in several horses here.

Guigni was speaking on Wednesday at an event in Sao Paulo.

Shaun White talks Olympic skateboarding, Air & Style at Forbes summit

Shaun White
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What do the next five years look like for Shaun White the businessman?

“I heard they just accepted skateboarding at the Olympics, so if I wasn’t busy enough,” White joked, rubbing his right ear while gripping an Aquafina water bottle, sitting in a white chair on a stage across from Forbes senior editor Kurt Badenhausen.

“I don’t know. Maybe there’s a summer medal in my future. Maybe another Winter Olympics. I’m hoping to go to [Pyeongchang, South] Korea [for the 2018 Winter Games], which would be great. I’ve still got to do the qualifying and everything. I’m going to grow Air & Style into the next big thing. Music, you’ll see me on the road. Record a new single. I think that’s what’s so great is the unknown.”

White took questions from Badenhausen for 28 minutes at the Forbes Under 30 Summit on Tuesday, discussing his business ventures and his snowboarding.

White mentioned skateboarding, which is among five sports that are finalists to be added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program. It’s not in the Olympics yet, but the International Olympic Committee will decide in August. White, a two-time Olympic snowboard halfpipe champion, won Summer X Games skateboard vert as recently as 2011.

Since finishing fourth in the 2014 Olympic halfpipe, White has said he’s hoping to be at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, which would be his fourth Winter Games.

White, now 29, was the oldest U.S. Olympic men’s halfpipe snowboarder at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics and, in 2018, would be older than any previous U.S. Olympic men’s halfpipe snowboarder. The sport debuted at the Olympics in 1998.

He’s barely competed since Sochi, also finishing fourth at last January’s Winter X Games halfpipe. He has said he will spend part of October training in New Zealand and plans to compete at this season’s Winter X Games, but it’s not locked in.

White’s relationship with the X Games changed when, before the Sochi Olympics, he purchased a majority share in Air & Style, a touring big air ski and snowboard event that also includes music. Air & Style events have been held in Europe, Beijing and, debuting last February, Los Angeles.

White laughed when Badenhausen said he had read that White put up $5 million to put on the Los Angeles event.

“I wish it was just five,” White responded.

White expanded on Air & Style on Tuesday, saying his acquisition came after his conversations with X Games organizers for a similar plan fell apart (part of his answer in a video here):

“That was a huge turning point to do this event,” White said. “I mean, it was like, wow, OK, you guys don’t want to do this. Then I’m going to have to run with this idea, do it myself.”

The Winter X Games made their European debut in 2010 with events in Tignes, France, for four straight years, as well as having Summer X Games events in Brazil and Europe. It all stopped after 2013, but an Oslo event is scheduled for this February.

“They [X Games] actually expanded globally, it was a huge failure [laughs], to be honest, a couple things happened, I think,” White said. “They didn’t really change their marketing platform. They used the same announcers, the same people, the same competitors, all the things every time around the world, which didn’t exactly translate in the foreign markets. And then again, it did another thing where it diluted the brand in the U.S. because X Games was on TV every day. It’s kind of like, oh wow, I get to see this all the time, what’s so special about it?”

White announced Air & Style’s debut in Los Angeles in late 2014, after he said agents and accountants advised against it.

“It’s something I felt like I had to do, win or lose,” White said.

White said Air & Style’s event in Los Angeles was boosted by the X Games’ decision in 2013 to shift its summer event from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas.

“That left a really nice opening in the market for people that like to attend this type of event — families, younger-aged kids that would attend and then, obviously, a huge market for music-goers,” White said. “So it was kind of that win-win of people that we would get at that event. Not just the hardcore music-goers.”

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