Updated: Wednesday, 19 February 2014 18:17 | By Agence France-Presse

Super Ted targets gold in Sochi as queen Kim starts farewell

US skier Ted Ligety stormed closer 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.

Super Ted targets gold in Sochi as queen Kim starts farewell

Ted Ligety of the US competes during the first run of the men's giant slalom at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre, during the Sochi Winter Olympics, on February 19, 2014 - by Fabrice Coffrini

Ligety, the 29-year-old reigning world champion, clocked a time of 1min 21.08sec on his first run down the crisp Rosa Khutor course, a huge 0.93sec faster than his closest competitor, Czech skier Ondrej Bank.

Davide Simoncelli of Italy was third at 1.27sec with Thomas Fanara of France and downhill Olympic champion Matthias Mayer of Austria in joint fourth place.

Ligety's main giant slalom rivals -- French young gun Alexis Pinturault and Austrian hot shot Marcel Hirscher -- were sixth and seventh, with one more run to go in the afternoon.

"Sometimes my best or fastest run doesn't feel like that. Today I actually felt at times that I was going a little too cautiously, but I managed to get a nice buffer," four-time world champion Ligety said.

Kim 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.

"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.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the ice hockey action hots up as the competition reaches the knock-out stage.

Russia will face Finland, Sweden square off against Slovenia, defending champions Canada take on Latvia while the USA will battle the Czech Republic.

"It is do-or-die right now. Everybody is ready for Finland," said star Russian forward Alex Ovechkin.

Finland and Russia have met on six previous occasions at the Olympic Winter Games. Finland lead the series 4-2 and have won each of the last two encounters.

A total of eight gold medals are up for grabs on Wednesday.

Czech speedskater Martina Sablikova defends 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.

Other events to be decided are the men's and women's parallel giant slaloms in snowboarding, the women's bobsleigh, the men's and women's cross country team sprint classic races and the biathlon mixed relay.

That event will give Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen yet another attempt to snare a record 13th career medal to make him the most successful winter Olympian of all time.

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