Bode Miller, Ted Ligety lead World Alpine Skiing Championships men’s preview

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Bode Miller and Ted Ligety hope to put injury-hindered World Cup seasons behind them and perform like they’ve done so many times at major competitions. At the World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek, Colo., it might be their last chance to do so together.

Miller and Ligety, owners of a combined 18 Olympic and Worlds medals, lead the U.S. men into the biggest event of the Alpine skiing season over the next two weeks.

Miller, 37 and a six-time Olympic medalist, hasn’t competed this season due to Nov. 17 back surgery. He’s optimistic of racing the next two weeks, beginning Wednesday, but U.S. head coach Sasha Rearick said Sunday that a decision on Miller’s participation hadn’t been made yet.

Ligety, who won three gold medals at the last World Championships in 2013, is off to his slowest start to a season in six years. He’s skiing through pain, with four screws inserted into one of his hands Nov. 22.

In 2013, Ligety became the first man in 45 years to win at least three golds at a single World Championships — claiming his precious giant slalom, the super-G and the super combined.

“The head in the clouds goal would be repeating that, but I don’t know if that’s the realistic goal,” Ligety said on Universal Sports last week. “Winning the giant slalom is the biggest goal. Hopefully I can piece together another medal or two.”

Miller, should he race, and Ligety will face strong competition from World Cup overall leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria, downhill and super-G leader Kjetil Jansrud of Norway and the possible return of Jansrud’s countryman, eight-time Worlds medalist Aksel Lund Svindal.

Here’s the schedule (all ET):

Wednesday, Feb. 4 — Super-G, 1 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 12:55)
Saturday, Feb. 7 — Downhill, 1 p.m. (NBC, Live Extra at 2:30)
Sunday, Feb. 8 — Super Combined Downhill, noon (Universal Sports)
Sunday, Feb. 8 — Super Combined Slalom, 4:15 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 5)
Friday, Feb. 13 — Giant Slalom Run 1, 12:15 p.m. (Universal Sports at noon)
Friday, Feb. 13 — Giant Slalom Run 2, 4:15 p.m. (NBCSN, Live Extra at 4)
Sunday, Feb. 15 — Slalom Run 1, 12:15 p.m. (Universal Sports at noon)
Sunday, Feb. 15 — Slalom Run 2, 4:30 p.m. (NBC, Live Extra)

Full broadcast schedule

Here are five skiers to watch:

Bode Miller
Possible events: Downhill, Super-G, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: No races (injury)
2014 Olympics: Bronze in super-G; sixth in super combined; eighth in downhill; 20th in giant slalom
2013 World Championships: Did not compete (injury)

Miller, already the oldest Olympic Alpine medalist, hopes to become the second-oldest man to win a World Championships medal. It’s a tall ask.

Miller has only taken part in downhill training runs this season due to his recuperating back. But he showed he can contend, as sixth-fastest in a training run in Kitzbuehel, Austria, two weeks ago.

He told The New York Times he won’t race the giant slalom and is unlikely for the super combined. That leaves two races — the downhill and super-G — for Miller to win his first Worlds medal since 2005, when he swept the downhill and super-G in Bormio, Italy.

Miller said in April that this season would likely be his last before retiring, according to the New York Times.

Video: Miller is ‘Grandpa Bode’ in Audi commercial

source:
Ted Ligety had four screws put into his hand in November. (Ted Ligety’s social media)

Ted Ligety
Possible events: Super-G, Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: One win, three podiums in 18 races; second in giant slalom standings
2014 Olympics: Gold in giant slalom; 12th in super combined; 14th in super-G; DNF in slalom
2013 World Championships: Gold in super-G, giant slalom, super combined; DNF in slalom

Ligety was wise to downplay thoughts of repeating his 2013 World Championships triple. While he has a home-course advantage, Ligety hasn’t finished in the top 10 of any super-G this season and did not finish the only super combined.

He’s no sure thing in the giant slalom, either. Top rival Marcel Hirscher has won four of the five giant slaloms this season and is likely to keep Ligety from a third straight World Cup season title in his prized event. However, the only time Ligety beat Hirscher in a giant slalom this season came at Beaver Creek on Dec. 7.

Ligety is looking to become the third man to win three straight World titles in the same event (Ingemar Stenmark, Kjetil Andre Aamodt) and the first to do it in giant slalom.

Marcel Hirscher
Possible events: Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: Six wins, 11 podiums in 16 races; overall and giant slalom leader
2014 Olympics: Silver in slalom; fourth in giant slalom
2013 World Championships: Gold in slalom; silver in giant slalom

Hirscher is likely to become the first man to win four straight World Cup overall titles this season, which is remarkable for three reasons. He’s just 25 years old. He doesn’t ski downhill and rarely super-G. He owns just one gold medal from the Olympics and World Championships.

Hirscher can bolster his big-event reputation by performing well as Austria’s biggest star these next two weeks. He’s known more for slalom, but it appears he has less competition in giant slalom (Hirscher and Ligety have won the last eight World Cup giant slaloms).

In slalom, Hirscher trails German Felix Neureuther in the season standings, and the last four World Cup slaloms have been won by four different men, none of whom are Hirscher.

Kjetil Jansrud
Possible events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: Five wins in 17 races; downhill and super-G standings leader
2014 Olympics: Gold in super-G; bronze in downhill; fourth in super combined; DNF in giant slalom
2013 World Championships: DNF in super-G (injured)

Just like Lindsey Vonn, the Norwegian Jansrud came back from a major knee surgery suffered in the 2013 World Championships super-G and now leads the World Cup downhill and super-G standings.

Jansrud’s crash in Schladming was not as brutal as Vonn’s. Unlike Vonn, he skied at the Olympics and won the super-G gold medal, plus downhill bronze. He must be the downhill and super-G favorite this week. Jansrud won the World Cup downhill in Beaver Creek on Dec. 5 and finished second in the super-G the next day.

Jansrud’s path at Worlds could be impeded by countryman Aksel Lund Svindal, the reigning World champion in the downhill hoping to make his season debut after rupturing an Achilles tendon playing soccer in October.

One more U.S. speed racer
Possible events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2015 World Cup: Travis Ganong, Steven Nyman won downhills
2014 Olympics: Andrew Weibrecht won super-G silver
2013 World Championships: No notable finishes

It’s been 10 years since an American man other than Miller or Ligety won a World Championships medal. Their teammates have an opportunity to break that streak on home snow the next two weeks.

Ganong, 26, showed the most promise last season when he finished fifth in the Olympic downhill and made his first World Cup podium two weeks later. Ganong won his first World Cup race Dec. 28, a downhill in Santa Caterina, Italy.

Nyman, 32, won a World Cup race on Dec. 19 for the first time in more than two years. He’s the top American in the World Cup downhill standings, fourth place, and the man behind Fantasy Ski Racer.

Then there’s Weibrecht, 28, who owns as many Olympic medals as Lindsey Vonn (two) but has never made a World Cup podium. However, Weibrecht did notch his first World Cup top-five in a super-G in Kitzbuehel two weeks ago.

World Championships women’s preview

Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

Alex Zanardi
AP
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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

Shawn Johnson
Getty Images
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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

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