Noelle Pikus-Pace grabs skeleton silver; Great Britain’s Yarnold wins

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Noelle Pikus-Pace has ended her career as an Olympic medalist.

The American skeleton racer – who endured through injuries from a bobsled crash in 2005, a fourth-place finish at Vancouver in 2010, and a miscarriage in 2012 – scored the silver in today’s women’s final at Sanki Sliding Center behind gold medal winner Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain, who earned the Olympic title by nearly a full second across four runs.

Before taking her final run tonight, she went on Facebook to thank everyone that has supported her over the years, and then revealed her goals for the run on Twitter.

She certainly wasn’t scared as she made her way through the 17-turn course.

VIDEO: Pikus-Pace “couldn’t get to her family fast enough”

After reaching the finish line and finding out that an Olympic medal was hers at last, she went over the wall and into the crowd to celebrate with her family before taking part in the flower ceremony.

VIDEO: Pikus-Pace thanks her mom for her Olympic journey

The bronze went to Elena Nikitina of Russia, who kept Pikus-Pace’s American teammate, Katie Uhlaender, off the podium by a mere four one-hundredths of a second.

WOMEN’S SKELETON – FINAL STANDINGS
1. Lizzy Yarnold (GBR), 3:52.89
2. Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA), 3:53.86
3. Elena Nikitina (RUS), 3:54.30

4. Katie Uhlaender (USA), 3:54.34

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.”