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

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Carolina Kostner tops Alina Zagitova in world champs short program

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Italian Carolina Kostner is the surprise leader after the short program at figure skating worlds, topping a woman half her age, Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, by .76 of a point in Milan on Wednesday.

Kostner, 31, tallied a personal-best 80.27 as she eyes a second world title to join her 2012 crown. Kostner earned the 2014 Olympic bronze medal and was fifth in PyeongChang as the oldest woman in the field by more than six years.

She can become the oldest women’s world champion by more than four years if she hangs on in Friday’s free skate, according to reports when Maria Butyrskaya won at age 26 in 1999.

“If I think back 15 years ago, when I started skating internationally, nobody in Italy followed figure skating,” said Kostner, who could retire after worlds. “Now, there’s a venue full of people sharing this passion with me.”

Zagitova, 15 and trying to become the youngest world champion since Tara Lipinski in 1997, struggled on the back end of her triple-triple jump combination. Her score of 79.51 was 3.41 points fewer than her world record at the Olympics.

“I felt, somehow, tight in my body,” Zagitova said through a translator. “I think it was nerves, but I don’t know why.

“I was more nervous here than at the Olympic Games.”

Zagitova, undefeated in her first senior international season, entered as the clear favorite with Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrawing from the event due to a right foot injury.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara and Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond are in third and fourth, reversing their final placements from the Olympics. The U.S. women are in seventh (Bradie Tennell), ninth (Mirai Nagasu) and 17th place (Mariah Bell).

Full results are here.

The top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example), or they will be dropped to two spots at the 2019 World Championships. The last time the U.S. had fewer than the maximum three spots at an Olympics or worlds was 2013.

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Tennell, the 20-year-old U.S. champion who led the Americans at the Olympics in ninth, swung her fist after a clean short that scored 68.76 points. She was .18 off her personal best from the Olympic team event.

Nagasu, who was 10th at the Olympics, performed a double Axel rather than the triple she landed in the Olympic team event. She also had her triple-triple combination downgraded to a triple-double.

Bell, the second alternate who made the team after Olympian Karen Chen withdrew and Ashley Wagner passed, struggled on her opening combination, only able to tack on a single jump.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Friday ET)
Mariah Bell (USA) — 2:32 p.m.
Bradie Tennell (USA) — 4:05 p.m.
Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 4:12 p.m.
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 4:36 p.m.
Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 5 p.m.
Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 5:08 p.m.
Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 5:16 p.m.

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South Korea women’s hockey team ‘misses’ playing with North Koreans

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Something is missing as the South Korean women’s hockey team prepares for its lower-level world championship tournament next month.

North Koreans.

“Right now, we have some injured players, and having the North players would definitely help our roster have more numbers,” Sarah Murray, the Minnesota native who coaches the South Korean team and coached the unified Korean Olympic team, said Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency. “But we just miss practicing with them. They brought a different level of intensity to practice and it was just fun to have them around.”

South Korea plays at the third-tier worlds in Italy in two weeks in a six-team group with China, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Poland.

It earned a spot in that tournament by topping its group in the fourth tier last year, including a 3-0 win over North Korea at a PyeongChang Olympic venue.

If South Korea tops its group this year, it moves to the second-tier worlds in 2019, one level below the ultimate tournament with the likes of the U.S. and Canada.

Murray initially had mixed feelings about North Koreans joining her team for the Olympics. The joint Korean team went winless in five games, giving up 28 goals and scoring two.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said after their last game in Gangneung, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

North Korea’s team is scheduled to play in the fourth-tier worlds that start next week in Slovenia. A joint North-South team could return for the 2022 Olympics.

“I think that would be good to do it in 2022, to go to the Beijing Olympics, to keep the North and South Korean team,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said at the Olympics, according to the AP. “It is a message of peace, and we hope to continue that. We will try.”

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