Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin more than ready for Olympic debut

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An athlete’s first Olympics should be a nerve-racking event. Compete against the best in front of a world-wide audience? How does one prepare for that?

If you’re U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, you’ve been prepping for years.

The 18-year-old will race for the first time in Sochi on Tuesday as one of the favorites in the women’s giant slalom (Watch it here starting at 2 am ET). She’s no novice — she’s the second-youngest American to win a World Cup alpine event and won the 2013 season title in slalom — and says she’s already prepped herself to think that way.

“I am really psyched to race, and I’ve been here before, in my head, for sure,” Shiffrin said, via the AP. “So to everybody, it’s my first Olympics, but to me it’s my thousandth.”

That entails picturing scenarios along the way (how will she feel at the starting gate? And on the podium? Or a crash?) so she can be prepared for whatever the course throws her way. Perhaps it’ll work. Some of her peers seem to think it will.

“She will handle the pressure really good,” Sweden’s Maria Pietilae-Holmner (second in the World Cup giant slalom standings), told the AP. “She’s still young, she’s not thinking too much, and I think she will for sure take one medal, at least.”

Carolina Kostner wants to return to competition

Carolina Kostner
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MILAN (AP) — With her suspension coming to an end, Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner already has her sights set on the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.

The Italian figure skater will be eligible to return to competition on Jan. 1 after serving a suspension for helping her ex-boyfriend evade doping controls.

”The desire is there, and it includes also obviously a possible Olympics,” the 28-year-old Kostner said Tuesday.

Kostner received clearance this week from the Court of Arbitration for Sport to return to competition next year after agreeing to have her 16-month suspension extended by five months, but then backdated, freeing her to skate earlier than anticipated.

As part of the agreement, Kostner also agreed to act as a spokeswoman against doping, her lawyer said.

But Kostner said it was too soon to lay out a program for her comeback.

”Knowing that I can return to competition in 2016 gives me great strength and great serenity to make a decision,” Kostner said.

Italian skating federation president Andrea Gioss said it would be difficult for Kostner to qualify for the European Championships from Jan. 25-31 because of time constraints. She would have time to qualify for the World Championships in Boston in March by picking up points at sanctioned international competitions.

As she has in the past, Kostner admitted she ”made an error,” by helping her ex-boyfriend, Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer, evade a doping test and other infractions. She has said she was unaware he was doping.

”This period for me was a moment of great growth and maturation,” she said, adding she has broken off all contact with Schwazer but did not wish him ill.

Kostner, who missed out on the Worlds last year but won bronze at the Sochi Olympics, said she has been concentrating on the artistic aspects of skating since the suspension took effect in January, and will be able to return to full training in federation-sanctioned rinks from Nov. 1. In the meantime, she is preparing for an ice show in Verona this week, and spent last winter in a dance studio practicing ballet.

Kostner said she misses competing but that she had nothing to prove by returning to the rink.

”I have a big trove of experience, Olympics that have gone well, Olympics gone badly, falls, getting back up,” Kostner said. ”In a certain sense, I feel the desire and need to give it all meaning, if only to be part of a team and have the young future Italian champion turn to me and ask advice, `You, at those moments, what did you do?”’

MORE FIGURE SKATING: New star emerges at Japan Open

Rio Olympics cutting costs with Brazil deep in recession

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) —¬†Olympic organizers, faced with the reality of a country deep in recession, are trimming costs to keep their budget balanced.

To keep spending in line, officials say they will cut back on printed material, reduce staffing at dozens of test events and trim costs for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“This is a very strict budget,” said Sidney Levy, the organizing committee’s chief executive officer. “There’ll be no excess, but we are not going to compromise the essentials.”

Levy has said often over the last few months he will trim costs and cut non-essential purchases.

News of the budget austerity comes as hundreds of journalists from around the world are in Rio this week visiting Olympic venues and talking with organizers about how the Games will run when they open Aug. 5, 2016.

The organizing committee’s budget remains at 7.4 billion reals ($2 billion), which is for putting on the games themselves. It does not include building venues, subway lines and highways to help stage the games.

Operating income is from ticket sales, local sponsorships, merchandising and licensing with the largest contribution from the International Olympic Committee.

Brazil hosted the World Cup last year with year-long protests leading up to the event. Now the Olympics are causing a strain.

Brazil’s currency has lost 70 percent of its value against the dollar in the last year and inflation is running at 10 percent. The economy is expected to remain in a steep recession through the games, and there are calls to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, partly driven by a $2 billion bribery scandal involving state-run oil company Petrobras.

Olympic organizers face other problems.

The venues for sailing, rowing, canoeing, triathlon and open water swimming are heavily polluted with viruses and bacteria with only stop-gap measures possible to contain the problem. Organizers have said athletes are not at risk, though some athletes have openly questioned competing in the dirty water.

An Associated Press study published on July 30 showed high levels of viruses in all of Rio’s water. Organizers say they are looking at viral testing but do not plan to move any venues.

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