Reports: Hurdler Orlando Ortega deserts Cuban team, whereabouts unknown

Orlando Ortega
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Cuban sprint hurdler Orlando Ortega disappeared after missing the 110-meter hurdles final at the World Track and Field Championships last week, according to Cuban and Russian reports.

Ortega, who placed sixth at the 2012 Olympics, has already been ruled out becoming a naturalized Russian, the president of the Russian athletics federation said.

“The Russian Athletics Federation is not interested in Ortega’s services as an athlete,” Valentin Balakhnichev told R-Sport. “I have no information about the location of Ortega, as we haven’t received any requests from him. It was his decision to leave his team, and he didn’t return to his homeland and it will weigh upon his conscience.”

Ortega, 22, was suspended by the Cuban track and field federation earlier this summer for “indiscipline,” but that six-month ban was lifted before the World Championships. He owns the third-fastest time in the world this year behind world champion David Oliver and Olympic bronze medalist Hansle Parchment.

Cuba’s most famous track and field athlete, Dayron Robles, the 2008 Olympic champion in the 110-meter hurdles, was similarly banned earlier this year and did not compete at worlds.

Robles had said in January he would no longer compete for Cuba, and his coach said the same month that Robles would retire due to lack of attention from Cuban officials, though Robles went on to enter competitions in July.

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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.”