Olympics: Ski aces in three-way battle for giant slalom gold

US ski star Ted Ligety and French tyro Alexis Pinturault will get a second chance at Olympic glory in Wednesday's giant slalom, but with Austrian hot shot Marcel Hirscher now in play.

Ligety and Pinturault were widely expected to win the super-combined event last week but in typical Olympic fashion, forecasts were thrown up in the air and neither landed anywhere near the podium.

Now the two skiers, ranked third and second in World Cup giant slalom rankings, could make good for Friday's debacle.

But they will face a fresh-faced Hirscher, who only flew into Sochi on Sunday and has had a few more days to rest and train quietly in Austria, away from any Olympic hype.

The 24-year-old currently leads World Cup rankings and won the crystal globe in 2012.

Still, Ligety, as reigning world champion and winner of last year's crystal globe, looks like the one to beat on the slopes of Rosa Khutor.

His giant slalom prowess has earned him praise from his closest rivals, including an admiring Hirscher, and he has topped the podium in three out of six races this season.

The cool American -- already Olympic champion in Turin in 2006, although in super-combined -- has also shown he thrives on the pressure of big events, pocketing no less than three gold medals at world championships last year.

"I'm just going to push hard on Wednesday, I know where my skiing can be and this season I've had lots of ups and downs in other races and results, but still put together fast runs in giant slalom.

"There are a lot of guys who can be fast for sure, but myself, Hirscher and Pinturault are going to be the tougher guys to beat," he predicted.

Pinturault, 22, is still chasing his first medal at big events but has been strong all season in this discipline.

- 'It's up to me to bounce back' -

And already after the super-combined, where he skied out in the slalom part, he showed he was hungry for a title.

"Now it is up to me to bounce back. I have to do it, as any champion is able to do."

Two-time overall World Cup winner Hirscher said he was as ready as he could be to get his first ever Olympic medals.

"I'm really relaxed. I've trained really well during these last two weeks.

"Whatever you can try we've done it and there's nothing more we can do right now."

The world silver-medallist in giant slalom was also adamant he would not allow a result like four years ago in Vancouver.

"It's just full attack. I hope I never get a fourth place at Olympics again!"

Aside from the top three, France's Thomas Fanara could make it on to the podium.

But with Olympics throwing up several unexpected names so far, Norway's in-form Kjetil Jansrud could also complete a Sochi treble after downhill bronze and super-G gold. In 2010, he won silver in the giant slalom.

Jansrud's teammate Aksel Lund Svindal will miss the race on the other hand, preferring to head home and rest following allergy problems.

The Norwegian ace hoped to repeat the feat from four years ago when he won three Olympic medals, including downhill gold, but leaves Sochi without a single podium.

Germany's Felix Neureuther also looked unlikely to compete on Wednesday after a car accident last week on his way to take his flight for Sochi.

The 29-year-old suffered mild whiplash and bruising in the crash and had to cut short training on Monday.

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