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New rules mean new approach for Ligety

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Ted Ligety isn't preoccupied with defending his Olympic combined title in Vancouver in February.

That's understandable, since the traditional combined event doesn't exist anymore, having been replaced with the super-combi.

Instead of an event combining one downhill run with two slalom legs, the super-combi consists of one downhill or super-G run with just one trip down in slalom.

Since the American is a slalom and GS specialist, the new format doesn't favor him as much.

"I wouldn't say my main focus in the Olympics is trying to defend that," Ligety said in a recent interview. "Giant slalom and slalom, especially the giant slalom, is definitely my best chance at a medal, so that's going to be my main focus."

Since his combined gold in Turin, Ligety's best results have come almost exclusively in giant slalom. He won the World Cup giant slalom crystal globe in 2008 and a bronze medal in GS at last season's world championships in Val d'Isere, France. He has four race victories on the World Cup circuit - each in giant slalom.

Ligety will be among the favorites when the World Cup season opens with a GS in Soelden, Austria, this weekend. He said he is 100 percent again after injuring his right knee at the U.S. championships at the end of last season.

"I would like to go for the GS globe again. I was third last year - good, not great - and try to be somewhere in the mix in slalom this year," he said of his World Cup goals.

Expanding his program to be more of an all-around skier competing in all four disciplines is on hold.

"If you start doing too many downhills, you take away a lot of training time for giant slalom and slalom," Ligety said. "Especially in an Olympic year, you want to ski enough where you're feeling strong in those events."

After Soelden, the circuit travels to Levi, Finland, for slalom races Nov. 14-15, then hits North America with the men in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek and the women in Aspen, Colo., before heading up to Lake Louise.

Ligety noted that slalom specialist Jimmy Cochran has skied "really well" in preseason training, while men's coach Sasha Rearick picked out Andrew Weibrecht as a potential surprise in the speed events.

Weibrecht burst onto the scene by placing 10th in his first World Cup downhill at Beaver Creek, Colo., two years ago but failed to crack the top 10 last season, when his best result was 11th in the super-G on the famed Streif course in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

"I would say in general, Andrew Weibrecht has made the biggest improvement this year," Rearick said. "Technically and tactically he's found a bit more speed."

Speed specialists Scott Macartney, TJ Lanning and Steven Nyman are each working their way back from injuries.

While Lindsey Vonn defended her overall World Cup title, the rest of the U.S. women's team struggled last season. Bothered by hip and back problems, Julia Mancuso failed to record a top-five finish, and nobody besides Vonn recorded a podium result.

"I was disappointed in a few of them last season," women's coach Jim Tracy said. "We had opportunities and we didn't take advantage of those opportunities, and that's something that I'm going to stress this year."

Entering her fifth season on the World Cup, Stacey Cook is coming off a season in which she showed potential in the biggest race - placing ninth in the world championship downhill won by Vonn - but failed to crack the top 10 otherwise.

"Stacey Cook is definitely skiing better this summer than last," Tracy said. "She's got a new service guy, she's definitely fit and her times were really competitive down in South America, with Lindsey and Julia."

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