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Ligety claims giant slalom gold as Queen Kim starts farewell
AFP Ligety claims giant slalom gold as 'Queen Kim' starts farewell

Sochi (Russia) (AFP) - US skier Ted Ligety stormed to Olympic giant slalom gold on Wednesday as South Korean figure skating queen Kim Yu-Na prepared to defend her title on her international farewell.

Four-time world champion Ligety, who disappointed in the super-combined and super-G, stamped his authority on the race early, leading by nearly a second after the first run in picture-perfect conditions on the Rosa Khutor slopes.

The 29-year-old, who won combined gold at the 2006 Turin Games, did enough on his second ski to beat Frenchman Steve Missillier by nearly half a second in an overall time of 2min 45.29sec. French tyro Alexis Pinturault took bronze.

"This is my first gold medal since 2006, but it was easier back then," said Ligety, who becomes the first US man to win two gold medals in alpine skiing.

"I was only 21 and I didn't have all that struggle before."

"This is the event I wanted the most," he added. "This is the event I have been putting so much pressure on myself to win, so to pull through is an awesome feeling."

Away from the action on the slopes, Ukraine's pole vault great Sergei Bubka, who now heads the country's Olympic Committee, urged talks to end deadly violence in Kiev.

But the International Olympic Committee rejected a request by Ukrainian athletes in Sochi to wear black armbands in mourning after violence that has left at least 25 people dead.

The main focus in Sochi on Wednesday evening will be on the Iceberg Skating Palace, where Kim Yu-Na is seeking to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic titles in figure skating since Germany's Katarina Witt in 1988.

Standing in her way will be long-time rival Mao Asada of Japan and Russian prodigy Julia Lipnitskaia who, at just 15, became the youngest female figure skater in 78 years to win a gold medal after helping the Olympic host nation seal the inaugural team title.

Dubbed "Queen Yu-Na" by her adoring fans, Kim, who won the world championships for the second time last year, has already announced that the Sochi Games will be her final competition.

The South Korean's world record scores across the board in her stunning performance in Vancouver four years ago still stand but her Olympic season has been hampered by a right foot injury.

- 'Do-or-die' for Russia's ice hockey hopes -

"I heard a lot about Julia Lipnitskaia. She just debuted in the senior level, but this is my last Olympic Games. I think the experience here is different for both of us," said the 23-year-old Kim.

"For me I am not focusing on winning the gold medal twice. I am focusing more on taking part in the Olympic Games rather than winning twice," she added.

The short programme takes place on Wednesday, with the free skate the following day.

In the men's ice hockey quarter-finals, Sweden thumped Slovenia 5-0.

Russia are facing Finland, defending champions Canada take on Latvia while the USA will battle the Czech Republic.

In other medal action on Wednesday, Russia's Vic Wild captured the men's snowboarding parallel giant slalom title while his wife Alena Zavarzina took bronze in the women's event behind winner Patrizia Kummer of Switzerland.

Cross country skiing superstar Marit Bjoergen took Norway to victory in the women's team sprint race, the fifth Olympic gold of her career, while Finland won the men's race.

Czech speed skater Martina Sablikova will defend her Olympic crown in the women's 5,000m as she takes on Ireen Wust of the Netherlands, who will be seeking her fourth medal in Sochi.

The Netherlands have swept four podiums in speed skating and won 19 of 27 medals up for grabs at the Adler Arena in a strikingly dominant showing.

There are other golds up for grabs in the women's bobsleigh and the biathlon mixed relay, where Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen will get another chance to snare a record 13th career medal -- which would make him the most successful winter Olympian of all time.