Women’s downhill gold medal contender says Sochi course is too slow


As we mentioned yesterday, the Rosa Khutor alpine course for the Sochi Olympics received some changes yesterday after a major jump was triggering complaints from some of the women’s downhill competitors. That particular jump wound up being shaved down by course workers.

But one of those competitors isn’t happy about the result of those changes, and it’s none other than gold medal contender Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany.

Following today’s training session, Hoefl-Riesch, who won double gold medals in Vancouver in the slalom and combined disciplines, said that the tweaks had made the course too slow.

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“I think it’s a bit over the top to move the gate around before the jump they reduced yesterday, and add even more curves to the track, because it wasn’t fast anyway yesterday,” she said according to the Associated Press.

“The jump was not a good one, but the pace wasn’t too fast. But now they’ve reduced the pace even more, so that part is not a downhill. It’s too slow – not a downhill.”

Another potential gold winner, Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein, also expressed some dismay over the new section of the course but felt that “it will be improving every day” leading up to the downhill portion of the super combined on Monday and the women’s downhill event itself on Wednesday.

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.”