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‘I go skiing’: Ledecka chooses Alpine over snowboard worlds

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — After months of agonizing over a decision she would have preferred not to have to make, skier-snowboarder Ester Ledecka has finally chosen to compete in the Alpine skiing world championships next month instead of the snowboard worlds.

The Czech athlete who won golds in skiing and snowboarding at the Pyeongchang Olympics last year had to make the choice since the parallel giant slalom at the freestyle ski and snowboard world championships in Utah is scheduled for Feb. 4 — the same day that downhill training opens at the skiing worlds in Are, Sweden, and a day before the super-G race there.

“I go skiing,” Ledecka said on Thursday following a World Cup downhill training session.

“I would like to go (to) both but I had to make a choice and I made it and I’m looking forward to it. … The way I have the schedule right now it makes more sense for me.

“The decision had to be made and this is the life.”

At the Pyeongchang Olympics, Ledecka followed her super-G victory in Alpine skiing by winning the parallel GS in snowboarding — becoming the first athlete to win two golds at the same Winter Games using two different types of equipment.

Ledecka won a snowboard race in Cortina a month ago on the course in Faloria. With downhill races scheduled on Friday and Saturday followed by a super-G on Sunday, she’ll now be competing on the other side of the valley on the Olympia delle Tofane course.

“It’s weird because I really think about the speed in different ways when I have a snowboard and when I have skis,” Ledecka said. “When I have a snowboard and I ride faster you feel it more, you feel more fast. … And here you should get really fast to feel like, ‘OK, now it’s running.’”

Ledecka fell in the second downhill training session but got back up uninjured and continued her run.

Having already won two world titles in snowboarding, Ledecka considered an attempt to duplicate that success at the Alpine worlds was attractive.

“I would like to try to have some nice results on skis as well, and to try Are because it’s a nice hill and I really liked it there,’” said Ledecka, who finished 11th in the downhill at World Cup finals in Are last March — after placing second in downhill training. “It’s a good decision.”

Ledecka said she will compete in the super-G, downhill “and maybe super-combined” in Are: “I already made three runs on slalom skis so I will be quite well prepared.”

After the Alpine worlds, Ledecka will return to the snowboard World Cup.

Ledecka appealed to the International Ski Federation (FIS) to change competition schedules to make it possible for her to compete in both worlds, and the governing body said it tried to help.

FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis told The Associated Press: “Whatever had been possible would have been done but unfortunately with the logistics involved in the whole setup it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t without significant efforts.”

The worlds in Utah involve four different ski areas.

“It’s a very, very complex setup there. There are 28 events on the program. It’s a huge event. With morning and evening events and logistics,” Lewis said. “Crossing over from one championship to another, it’s obviously unique and never happened before.”

Lewis added that the next snowboard worlds will be in China in March 2021, a month after the Alpine championships in Cortina.

“Then there will probably be a new problem that it will clash with the World Cup,” Lewis said.

Added Ledecka, “It will happen again. I’m afraid so. But I will fight.”

Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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