The art of bobsledding (video)

BMW sled

The influx of bobsledders from track and field may give off the impression that the sport is easy. Far from it.

Take this video published on the International Olympic Committee’s YouTube channel. U.S. Olympic champion four-man bobsled pilot Steve Holcomb explains the art of his sport.

It begins with the start, a calculated frenzy that, if performed poorly, can dash medal hopes before the first turn on a track.

“It’s pretty cool to watch, to see these giant men running, jumping, getting in the sled, sitting down without scratching each other too much,” Holcomb said. “All within about five seconds.”

Holcomb has been an elite international driver for the better part of a decade. With every run on tracks across the globe, he gains experience and an edge over less seasoned competition.

“It takes years and years and years to finally get to a track where you can go an be fast every single run,” Holcomb said.

The best drivers know tracks inside and out and can recite where the turns are off the top of their head. Holcomb said the trick to bobsledding isn’t reacting but anticipating while sledding 90 miles per hour.

“I know exactly what’s going to happen,” said Holcomb, boosted before his 2010 Olympic gold by eye surgery to improve 20-500 vision. “I’m already preparing ahead of time. … Once you get to a certain point, if you make a mistake and you try to correct it, you’re going so fast that it’s way back there.”

Holcomb, the first U.S. Olympic men’s bobsled champion since 1948, will attempt to defend his four-man title in Sochi in February. The bobsled World Cup season begins Nov. 30 in Calgary.

Video: How bobsledders train without ice

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

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

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.”