U.S. curling team advances to Olympic Qualification Event playoff

John Shuster
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The U.S. curling team won its fourth straight game at the Olympic Qualification Event. Now, it must win one more.

A rink skipped by two-time Olympian John Shuster beat South Korea 7-5 in a tiebreaker game Saturday at the Bundesleistungszentrum in Fuessen, Germany.

That advanced the U.S. to face either the Czech Republic or Germany on Sunday at 6:30 a.m. The winner of Sunday’s game will go to the Olympics. The loser will not.

“We started the week very shaky and just made mistake after mistake — rolling out, not controlling shooters, missing draws, things like that,” U.S. curler Jeff Isaacson said. “As the week’s gone on we’ve gotten a lot better handle with the rocks and ice, and it has definitely helped. We’ve been facing at least five elimination games that we’ve had to win and we’re responding pretty well to it.”

The U.S. has qualified a men’s and women’s curling team to every Olympics since the sport was re-added to the Olympic program in 1998. It is the highest-ranked nation in the eight-team field in Fuessen.

Shuster skipped the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team to last place in Vancouver, where he was temporarily benched.

Star luger misses U.S. Olympic Luge Team

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.”