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LIGETY DOMINATES FOR GOLD IN OLYMPIC GIANT SLALOM

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 06:11 Published in Sports

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) -- Ted Ligety won the giant slalom at the Sochi Games with a dominating performance Wednesday, becoming the first American man to win two Olympic gold medals in Alpine skiing.

Leading after the first run, Ligety sped down the Rosa Khutor course in a two-leg combined time of 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds.

Steve Missillier of France finished second, 0.48 behind, and Alexis Pinturault, also of France, was third, 0.64 behind.

Overall World Cup leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria finished fourth, 0.94 behind.

Ligety's first gold came in combined at the 2006 Turin Games as a 21-year-old - before he had ever won a World Cup race.

The only other American to win two Olympic golds in Alpine skiing was Andrea Mead Lawrence, who took both the women's slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Oslo Games.

Four other American men - Bode Miller, Phil Mahre, Tommy Moe and Bill Johnson - have won one Olympic gold.

Ligety had such a large lead after the opening run - 0.93 seconds - that he could afford to ease up a bit on his second trip down, when he was only 14th fastest. But that was more than enough to give the U.S. its first gold in Alpine skiing of the Sochi Games.

Ligety celebrated by swirling around in the finish area while still on his skis then raised his arms while sitting down on the snow. The crowd realized he had won even before he crossed the line, and showered him with applause for the last few gates.

Conditions were perfect, with the temperature hovering near the freezing level and skies partly cloudy.

In both runs, Ligety showed off his unparalleled technique of arcing turns, leaning down and touching the snow with his hips, gloves and thighs at every opportunity to get the best angles. Other skiers displayed sharper turns but Ligety's were far more fluid.

"Ted goes so round that his turn is naturally a longer radius," said Miller, who finished 20th in what he said was his final race in Sochi. "He generates more speed and links one turn to the next and because he has so much space, he never pinches or gets in trouble because he's always way far from the gate."

Ligety has been the best giant slalom skier for several years, although after failing to win a medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, this was his crowning achievement.

Ligety won nine of 14 World Cup giant slalom races this season and last season. He took gold in GS at the last two world championships and won the season-long World Cup title in the discipline four of the last six years.

"I think he's one of the best GS skiers in history," Miller said. "He's so much better at it than everybody else. ... He just is so consistent. He makes no errors."

At last year's worlds in Schladming, Austria, Ligety also won gold in super-G and super-combined, making him the first man with at least three golds at a worlds since Jean Claude Killy earned four back in 1968.

---

Follow Andrew Dampf at HTTP://TWITTER.COM/ASDAMPF

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

KIDS WITH SEIZURES USE POT AS TREATMENT

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 06:10 Published in Health & Fitness

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- The doctors were out of ideas to help 5-year-old Charlotte Figi.

Suffering from a rare genetic disorder, she had as many as 300 grand mal seizures a week, used a wheelchair, went into repeated cardiac arrest and could barely speak. As a last resort, her mother began calling medical marijuana shops.

Two years later, Charlotte is largely seizure-free and able to walk, talk and feed herself after taking oil infused with a special pot strain. Her recovery has inspired both a name for the strain of marijuana she takes that is bred not to make users high - Charlotte's Web - and an influx of families with seizure-stricken children to Colorado from states that ban the drug.

"She can walk, talk; she ate chili in the car," her mother, Paige Figi, said as her dark-haired daughter strolled through a cavernous greenhouse full of marijuana plants that will later be broken down into their anti-seizure components and mixed with olive oil so patients can consume them. "So I'll fight for whomever wants this."

Doctors warn there is no proof that Charlotte's Web is effective, or even safe.

In the frenzy to find the drug, there have been reports of non-authorized suppliers offering bogus strains of Charlotte's Web. In one case, a doctor said, parents were told they could replicate the strain by cooking marijuana in butter. Their child went into heavy seizures.

"We don't have any peer-reviewed, published literature to support it," Dr. Larry Wolk, the state health department's chief medical officer, said of Charlotte's Web.

Still, more than 100 families have relocated since Charlotte's story first began spreading last summer, according to Figi and her husband. The relocated families have formed a close-knit group in Colorado Springs, the law-and-order town where the dispensary selling the drug is located. They meet for lunch, support sessions and hikes.

"It's the most hope lots of us have ever had," said Holli Brown, whose 9-year-old daughter, Sydni, began speaking in sentences and laughing since moving to Colorado from Kansas City and taking the marijuana strain.

Amy Brooks-Kayal, vice president of the American Epilepsy Society, warned that a few miraculous stories may not mean anything - epileptic seizures come and go for no apparent reason - and scientists do not know what sort of damage Charlotte's Web could be doing to young brains.

"Until we have that information, as physicians, we can't follow our first creed, which is do no harm," she said, suggesting that parents relocate so their children can get treated at one of the nation's 28 top-tier pediatric epilepsy centers rather than move to Colorado.

However, the society urges more study of pot's possibilities. The families using Charlotte's Web, as well as the brothers who grow it, say they want the drug rigorously tested, and their efforts to ensure its purity have won them praise from skeptics like Wolk.

For many, Charlotte's story was something they couldn't ignore.

Charlotte is a twin, but her sister, Chase, doesn't have Dravet's syndrome, which kills kids before they reach adulthood.

In early 2012, it seemed Charlotte would be added to that grim roster. Her vital signs flat-lined three times, leading her parents to begin preparing for her death. They even signed an order for doctors not to take heroic measures to save her life again should she go into cardiac arrest.

Her father, Matt, a former Green Beret who took a job as a contractor working in Afghanistan, started looking online for ways to help his daughter and thought they should give pot a try. But there was a danger: Marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, THC, can trigger seizures.

The drug also contains another chemical known as CBD that may have seizure-fighting properties. In October, the Food and Drug Administration approved testing a British pharmaceutical firm's marijuana-derived drug that is CBD-based and has all its THC removed.

Few dispensaries stock CBD-heavy weed that doesn't get you high. Then Paige Figi found Joel Stanley.

One of 11 siblings raised by a single mother and their grandmother in Oklahoma, Stanley and four of his brothers had found themselves in the medical marijuana business after moving to Colorado. Almost as an experiment, they bred a low-THC, high-CBD plant after hearing it could fight tumors.

Stanley went to the Figis' house with reservations about giving pot to a child.

"But she had done her homework," Stanley said of Paige Figi. "She wasn't a pot activist or a hippy, just a conservative mom."

Now, Stanley and his brothers provide the marijuana to nearly 300 patients and have a waitlist of 2,000.

The CBD is extracted by a chemist who once worked for drug giant Pfizer, mixed with olive oil so it can be ingested through the mouth or the feeding tube that many sufferers from childhood epilepsy use, then sent to a third-party lab to test its purity.

Charlotte takes the medication twice a day. "A year ago, she could only say one word," her father said. "Now she says complete sentences."

The recovery of Charlotte and other kids has inspired the Figis and others to travel the country, pushing for medical marijuana laws or statutes that would allow high-CBD, low-THC pot strains.

Donald Burger recently urged a New York state legislative panel to legalize medical marijuana while his wife, Aileen, was in the family's new rental house in Colorado Springs, giving Charlotte's Web to their daughter Elizabeth, 4. The family only relocated to Colorado after neurologists told them Elizabeth's best hope - brain surgery - could only stop some of her seizures.

"It's a very big strain being away from the rest of our family," Aileen Burger said recently while waiting for her husband to return from a trip to sell their Long Island house. "But she doesn't have to have pieces of her brain removed."

Ray Mirazabegian, an optician in Glendale, Calif., brought Charlotte's Web to his state, where medical marijuana is legal. He convinced the Stanley brothers to give him some seeds he could use to treat his 9-year-old daughter Emily, who spent her days slumped on the couch. Now, she's running, jumping and talking. Mirazabegian is cloning the Charlotte's Web seeds and has opened the California branch of the Stanleys' foundation.

Mirazabegian has begun to distribute the strain to 25 families and has a waitlist of 400. It includes, he said, families willing to move from Japan and the Philippines.

---

Follow Nicholas Riccardi on Twitter at HTTPS://TWITTER.COM/NICKRICCARDI .

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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