No. 1 fighter Aaron Cook looking for a new country

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When we first heard that world No. 1 taekwondo fighter Aaron Cook was disgruntled after being left off Team GB’s London squad, allegedly out of spite, we wrote him an open letter inviting him to come compete for USA’s red, white, and blue.

Now that might actually be an option.

“In three years I may be under a different flag,” Cook told the BBC Monday. “My dream is to win an Olympic gold in Rio for Team GB, but it’s going to be extremely difficult for me to move forward after everything that’s happened.”

Cook decided to leave he Team GB academy in 2011 to instead hire independent coaches after a poor showing at Worlds. In perceived retaliation, the British team then chose 103rd-ranked fighter, Lutalo Muhammad, to take his place. Cook eventually lost three very public appeals with the Team GB’s board and the World Taekwondo Federation.

His talented replacement, Muhammad, ended up winning bronze in London, somewhat vindicating the decision. But the scars still remain for Cook and four years may not be enough time to heal.

“I’m world number one, I’m reigning European champion, I’ve beaten the guy who they selected in front of me and the Olympic gold and silver medalists this year,” Cook said. “I should have been at that Olympics.”

He then added that he felt the decision was person and that if the people responsible don’t resign or get fired then he and his team will realistically look at competing for another nation in 2016.

So I reiterate: Aaron, come fight for Team USA. We love a winner.

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”