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home : sports : regional August 20, 2014

2/19/2014
Time for The Ligety-Hirscher-Pinturault Show
United States' Ted Ligety reacts after finishing the slalom portion of the men's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
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United States' Ted Ligety reacts after finishing the slalom portion of the men's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2014 file photo Austria's Marcel Hirscher celebrates in the finish area after winning an alpine ski World Cup men's slalom in Adelboden, Switzerland. Austria's top Alpine skier Marcel Hirscher says the pressure is off him at the Sochi Olympics after teammate Matthias Mayer won the men's downhill.(AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta, File)
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FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2014 file photo Austria's Marcel Hirscher celebrates in the finish area after winning an alpine ski World Cup men's slalom in Adelboden, Switzerland. Austria's top Alpine skier Marcel Hirscher says the pressure is off him at the Sochi Olympics after teammate Matthias Mayer won the men's downhill.(AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta, File)
BY GRAHAM DUNBAR
AP Sports Writer

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Ted Ligety vs. Marcel Hirscher vs. Alexis Pinturault.

The men's giant slalom on Wednesday might be the most anticipated Alpine race at the Sochi Olympics.

Three skiers who combined to win 20 of 23 World Cup giant slaloms over three seasons, and filled the podium together seven times.

Here are five things to know about a race featuring 109 skiers from 62 nations:

MR. GIANT SLALOM: American Ligety, the world champion and World Cup season-long title holder, is often introduced by European race announcers as "Mr. Giant Slalom."

"He's the favorite in GS and everyone in the world knows that," said Forest Carey, Ligety's technical coach.

Ligety was unhappy with his slalom in super-combined, then started fast in super-G before an error ended his medal chance.



LTK

"I'm just going to push hard in the race," said Ligety, who needs Olympic gold to complete his GS set.

MR. ANGRY: France's Pinturault had several days to calm down after failing to finish the super-combined slalom course.

"He was angry," France coach Patrice Morisod said. "I think (in) his last 50 runs in slalom he didn't make such a mistake."

Still, the misstep perhaps set up Pinturault for his main events, with Saturday's night slalom to come.

"It's his first Olympics, he's only 22," Morisod said.

MR. CONSISTENT: Hirscher is probably the world's best slalom skier, and his consistency in giant slalom is also impressive.

He has top-three finishes in 19 of the past 20 GS races, including silver behind Ligety at the 2013 worlds.

Hirscher was last of the trio to arrive in Sochi, noting reports of earlier Olympic races for Ligety and Pinturault.

"I have heard a lot, I have seen a lot, I read a lot. But it's always tough to say how bad it is," said Hirscher, who trained at Reiteralm, Austria. "About me, I am really relaxed."

If Hirscher needed motivation, at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics he was fourth in GS, just 0.08 second behind bronze medalist Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

OTHER CANDIDATES: Svindal has left early, citing allergies to help explain his unexpected failures, though the other Vancouver medalists will start Wednesday.

Carlo Janka of Switzerland defends his title, and a repeat silver medal would give Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud medals of each color here.

Felix Neureuther got a rare World Cup GS win last month but a neck injury sustained crashing his car last week in Munich, Germany, could prevent him starting.

Germany team director Wolfgang Maier said Neureuther trained indoors on Tuesday and will wait until Wednesday morning to decide if he is fit to race.

The first run is scheduled 11 a.m. (0700 GMT).

TINA TRIPLE?: Tina Maze has two gold medals, in downhill and giant slalom, and she could have swept all four Alpine races so far.

Now she must decide how to approach the slalom under floodlights on Friday.

"Let her enjoy what she's done now," Maze's head coach and boyfriend, Andrea Massi, said after her GS win Tuesday. "Then the slalom, if she wants to, she can compete."

A third gold would tie Maze with Janica Kostelic of Croatia, who went 3-for-5 at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.







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