Ted Ligety

Ted Ligety wins first post-Olympic race, notches World Cup first (video)

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Olympic champion Ted Ligety showed no rust, winning the first World Cup race he entered since Sochi on Saturday to accomplish a feat no man has ever done in ski racing.

Ligety won a giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, for a sixth time. No other man has won six times in the same discipline at one venue in their careers.

“This hill is definitely a really cool hill, has so much personality and it’s a really fun hill to ski,” Ligety said. “It has steep parts. It has rolls. It has a little bit of a gliding section. It’s a hill that’s a true GS skier’s hill.”

Ligety clocked a two-run time of 2 minutes, 30.80 seconds to hold off Austrian Benjamin Raich by .18 of a second. Raich jumped from 17th place after the first run. Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen was third.

American Tim Jitloff was eighth, the fifth time he’s made a World Cup top 10 in his career. Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller was 24th.

Ligety moved into second place in the season standings in the giant slalom, 50 points behind Austrian leader Marcel Hirscher. Hirscher was fourth Saturday, and if he’s third or better in the World Cup Finals giant slalom next week he’s assured of winning the season title.

Hirscher made the podium in the first six giant slalom races this season before Saturday’s near miss.

“Now the GS title isn’t so far away, but it’s still kind of far away, especially with the mistakes I’ve made so far this year,” said Ligety, who has won the giant slalom season title four of the last six years. “Wins are always important, even if they don’t go for the title.”

Hirscher also made gains in the overall standings race as he seeks to become the third man to win three straight titles and the first since American Phil Mahre from 1981-83.

Hirscher is now 41 points behind leader Aksel Lund Svindal and should gain even more, if not pass Svindal, in Sunday’s slalom in Kranjska Gora. After that, the final four races of the season are at the World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, next week.

Ligety is in fourth in the overall standings with no realistic shot at the overall title, but he’s got that Olympic gold, which “makes you feel more happy about your season, but it doesn’t really change anything in the World Cup races,” Ligety said after the first run Saturday, according to The Associated Press.

Kranjska Gora Giant Slalom
1. Ted Ligety (USA) 2:30.80
2. Benjamin Raich (AUT) 2:30.98
3. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) 2:31.05
4. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) 2:31.43
5. Fritz Dopfer (GER) 2:31.58
6. Roberto Nani (ITA) 2:31.78
7. Mathieu Faivre (FRA) 2:31.88
8. Tim Jitloff (USA) 2:32.01
9. Steve Missillier (FRA) 2:32.12
10. Marcus Sandell (FIN) 2:32.39
24. Bode Miller (USA) 2:33.53

Hockey Hall of Fame opens Olympic display

Amanda Kessel ‘dream come true’ in University of Minnesota return

Amanda Kessel
AP
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Olympic silver medalist Amanda Kessel recorded two assists in her first game in nearly two years, coming back from a concussion for the University of Minnesota on Friday night.

“I think I’d regret it if I didn’t get back to this point,” Kessel said after a 3-0 win over North Dakota, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

Kessel, 24, last played in the Sochi Olympic gold-medal game and then sat out nearly two years with symptoms from a concussion reportedly suffered before the Winter Games. Coach Brad Frost said in July that Kessel wouldn’t play this season, ending her college career.

But in August, new doctors gave Kessel hope she would play again.

On Friday, she skated on the Golden Gophers’ top line after the school’s medical staff got second and third opinions before clearing her to play, according to the newspaper.

“If I was going to get back to playing, I was going to be 100 percent healthy and be able to get in there,” Kessel said, according to the Pioneer Press. “I felt great being able to get in corners and get hit and stuff like that.”

Kessel, the 2012-13 NCAA Player of the Year for the undefeated national champion, said she wasn’t 100 percent in “game shape” and that she felt like a rookie, but that she’s ready to challenge herself in the final month and a half of her senior season.

“I don’t think I’ve heard it that loud since we won the national championship here [on March 22],” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “So many people were just so excited to see her work her way back to where she is now.”

MORE: How Amanda Kessel became a star for U.S. hockey team

Kjetil Jansrud wins first ski race on 2018 Olympic course

Kjetil Jansrud
AP
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JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — Kjetil Jansrud confirmed he’s the skier to beat on the downhill course for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, winning the test event by a comfortable margin Saturday.

The first downhill course in South Korea also won mostly praise from skiers and the International Ski Federation.

“If you want to be the best you have to ski anything,” Jansrud said. “This is more than an acceptable Olympic downhill. The way it’s running now it’s almost a little too fast because the jumps are so big. But that makes it exciting.”

Giving Norway its 17th World Cup win of the season, Jansrud was nearly flawless and clocked 1 minute, 41.38 seconds for a 0.20-second advantage over Dominik Paris of Italy.

Steven Nyman of the United States finished third, 0.41 behind, in perfect conditions with clear skies, cool temperatures and hard snow.

It was Jansrud’s third win of the season and first in downhill after taking the season-long title in the discipline last season.

“This is probably the first run I’ve skied this season without mistakes,” he said.

Jansrud also led both training courses on the newly developed Jeongseon course.

Paris and Nyman each posted their first podium results of the season.

“In the summer I was thinking this is a highlight of the season to come here and to really learn about the culture and learn about what we’re going to experience during the Olympics,” Nyman said.

“I want to feel comfortable and come here with the expectations and I want to do well, too, because I know the Olympics are going to be here in two years,” Nyman added. “I did well and I’m happy. I think the course really suits my skills.”

A super-G is scheduled for Sunday in the first of 28 test events for the next Winter Games.

“Today we put Korea on the map of the international sports world,” Pyeongchang organizing committee chief Cho Yang-ho said. “This is just the beginning.”

While the course is not the most challenging of tests for World Cup racers, it features four big jumps, sweeping turns and is designed for small margins.

“It’s a downhill that is really made for the Olympics,” International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper said. “It’s not Kitzbuehel or Wengen — that we don’t need for the Olympics.”

It was only the third World Cup downhill held in Asia, and the first in South Korea.

Todd Brooker of Canada won in Furano, Japan, in 1985 and Peter Mueller of Switzerland won at Furano in 1987.

More than 1,000 fans attended the race, which was preceded by an opening ceremony featuring traditional dancers with skis on their backs.

Most of the spectators had to hike 500 meters (yards) up a steep hill to the finish area, since a planned lift for fans hasn’t been installed yet.

There were also cheerleaders to keep the spectators entertained, and many skiers bowed to the crowd after their runs according to the local custom.

Peter Fill of Italy finished fourth and Beat Feuz of Switzerland was fifth.

Jansrud is fourth in the overall standings, which are led by Marcel Hirscher of Austria.

Aksel Lund Svindal, Jansrud’s teammate who will miss the rest of the season following a crash in Kitzbuehel (video here), Austria, still leads the downhill standings by 71 points ahead of Fill. Jansrud is third, 109 points behind.

VIDEO: Ted Ligety out for season after torn ACL