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Alpine skiing: Ligety turns technical ahead of Sochi

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

American Ted Ligety will skip the downhill in Kitzbuehel next weekend as he focuses his race programme on the technical events ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Only a fool would rule out experienced duo Bode Miller or Julia Mancuso, making fifth and fourth Olympic appearances respectively, from making a podium in Russia, having already snared eight Olympic medals between them.

But in the absence of the injured defending downhill champion Lindsey Vonn, Ligety will, more realistically, be at the forefront of the US ski team's medal charge along with teenage women's slalom star Mikaela Shiffrin.

Ligety stole the show at last season's world championships in Schladming - also hit by the absence of Vonn after a horrific crash - taking golds in the super-G, combined and his favoured giant slalom.

But this season has so far been mixed results-wise, the Park City skier winning the giant slalom in Soelden and Beaver Creek and claiming a third in Altabadia, but bombing out of both the slalom and giant slalom in Adelboden and Val d'Isere, and also the super-Gs in Lake Louise and Val Gardena.

His recent form in the technical events was something he claimed hinged more on bad luck than his skiing.

"I got extremely unlucky in Adelboden. Based on what my split was... I probably would have won - it's hard to say, obviously!" Ligety told AFP after Thursday's second downhill training in Wengen.

"I was skiing well and hit a big bump and went out. I got my ski caught in a gate and that's one in a million gates that that happens.

"And then in Val d'Isere I was winning that run by a lot too and went out there, and I had a bad day in Altabadia.

"There's a little bit of inconsistency but the skiing's fast. I'm not really worried where my skiing's at."

Ligety's sole Olympic medal was a combined gold in 2006, and he endured a hugely disappointing showing by his own high standards at the 2010 Games, finishing ninth in the giant slalom and fifth in the super-combined.

He has since gone on to master the giant slalom, four times, was crowned the discipline's World Cup champion and also claimed the 2011 world gold and 2009 bronze.

At the age of 29, Ligety is far from being one of the oldest on the circuit, but the American admitted that he was juggling races ahead of Sochi.

"It's week to week as normal," he contended. "But there's some race management that we do right now.

"Because of Sochi, I'm not going to do the downhill or training runs in Kitzbuehel which I've done in the last few years just because it's not really worth the risk.

"There's no combined attached to it so it just doesn't make as much sense to do it.

"I'll tick that off but otherwise it's skiing as normal," Ligety told AFP.

Turning to Wengen, where he finished a massive 6.04sec off Canadian Erik Guay's lead time in the second and final downhill training run, Ligety was confident.

"It's definitely pretty bumpy, such is the nature of the snow being so soft," he said. "Hopefully the sun comes out for the race so at least we can see the bumps.

"My skiing feels good, today I think I felt a little better. My bottom half was pretty decent.

"Hopefully I'd like to be on the podium or trying to win the super-combined on Friday, I think I have a good chance at that.

"In Sunday's slalom I'd like to get in the top 10. My slalom's kind of hit and miss but I think I have that potential and it's not really worth doing it if I feel I can't be in the top 10."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140116/alpine-skiing-ligety-turns-technical-ahead-sochi