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Ted Ligety determined to win again as World Cup stops at Beaver Creek

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — His face showed little expression as he glided his way down the hill. This was serious business — no laughing, smiling or crying.

With his two-time Olympic gold medalist father holding on, 17-month-old Jax Ligety took his first trek down the slope a few months ago. The look: Pure determination.

It’s a look Ted Ligety knows all too well. He’s that determined to return to the top.

For years, Ligety has been plagued by knee and back issues. Now healthier than he’s been in a while, Ligety’s attempting to rediscover the giant slalom form that allowed him to win an Olympic gold medal (2014 Sochi Games), capture five World Cup titles in the discipline and challenge Austrian standout Marcel Hirscher.

“I don’t know if I’m the Ted of 2012, which was pretty fast,” said Ligety, who plans to compete in the super-G and GS this weekend in Beaver Creek (live on NBC Sports; TV/stream schedule here). “That’s definitely where I’m shooting for, though. I feel like it’s getting to the point where I can start winning races again. That’s the goal right now.”

His last World Cup victory was Oct. 25, 2015, in Austria — before he frayed the cartilage in his hip, tore the ACL in his right knee and strained his back to the point where the 34-year-old from Park City, Utah, needed season-ending surgery in January 2017 to fix herniated disks. There was promise last season, with a third-place showing in Germany just before the PyeongChang Games last February.

But his GS title defense at the Olympics didn’t go as planned as he finished tied for 15th place in a race won by Hirscher. Ligety did take fifth during the combined, also won by Hirscher.

As an experience, Ligety described PyeongChang as “fun” with his wife, Mia, Jax and his family in attendance.

As a racer, not so much.

“I was there to compete and go for medals and came up a little short in the combined and vastly underperformed in the giant slalom,” said Ligety, who captured Olympic gold in the combined at the 2006 Torino Games. “It’s not the way I would’ve liked to have things to go down in the Olympics.”

These days, he’s all about family time. His wife and son travel with him as often as possible. Ligety gave his son his first taste of skiing at a New Zealand venue in August.

“I definitely want him to be a skier. Do I want him to be a ski racer? If he wants to. It’s not something I would ever push on him,” Ligety said. “A big part of my life is skiing. I want him to ski race at least when he’s younger so he has that base. But I wouldn’t push him beyond just going out there and having fun with friends.”

There was a time when his rivals used to refer to him as “Mr. GS” for his dominance in the event. Ligety had a stretch where he captured three straight world championship GS titles and another during the 2013 season when he won six of eight races in the event.

But injuries took a toll on him. He tore his ACL during a training mishap in Germany in January 2016. His back and hip have also hindered him.

This summer, though, he went through something he hasn’t in quite a while — a customary prep period. For once, he wasn’t rehabbing an injury. He actually got to train.

“High volume, too,” Ligety said. “I’m feeling good.”

Good enough to challenge Hirscher, who’s won seven straight World Cup overall titles?

“To able to compete with him is definitely a tall task,” Ligety said. “But I really don’t think I’d be out here if I didn’t think I could get back to that point.”

Ligety laughs when asked how much longer he intends to race, simply saying he’s closer to the end than the beginning. His immediate plan is to race for two more seasons and then play it by ear.

“I may go another two years after that, but it will be based on how the skiing is going, how the body is feeling, family, and all that stuff,” Ligety said.

He’s not quite ready for a full, full-time job. He does run a company he started called Shred, which makes goggles, sunglasses, gloves and other products.

“A desk is not my preferred work environment,” Ligety said. “That’s what’s great about being a ski racer: You ultimately control your own destiny in what you do. And that’s the big reason I started a business. I wanted to have that in the business world as well, something I could control the destiny of and be a part of and how it’s shaped. That’s part of that future me.”

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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