Did ski wax conspiracy cause Norway’s cross-country relay woes?

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The Olympics are serious business for every country that competes in them. But some countries have a certain Olympic sport that it considers as Serious Business – capital S, capital B.

As we’re reminded of every four winters, Norway’s Serious Business is in cross-country skiing. The Sochi Games have seen the country surpass the 100-medal mark overall in cross-country alone.

So far in Sochi, they’ve claimed three individual CC golds and seven CC medals altogether.

But fans back home are frustrated as of late after Norway’s men’s and women’s relay teams came away with no medals at all last weekend.

Taking the brunt of the criticism is Norway’s head wax technician, Knut Nystad, who called the medal-less results a “big mystery” in a post-race press conference.

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It’s bad enough that his team lost both events. It’s even worse that Sweden, their arch-rivals in the sport, won the gold in each as well.

So what happened?

Nystad and his fellow wax techs have taken heat for failing to properly prepare the Norwegian’s skis for the Sochi course, which has seen warm conditions in these Games.

And to Nystad, there could be a waxing conspiracy at work, too.

“I wish I had the best products, preferably the stuff the Swedes have,” he said according to the Associated Press. “There are rumors that certain producers favor certain countries. We’ve heard that rumor from two distributors.

“…Norway is seen as the dominant nation,” he added, while not noting which products he said he didn’t have access to. “There’s been talk that Norway has been too dominant. Long-term, that’s good for the sport. But right now, it’s incredibly irritating for us.”

However, those claims have been denied by rival teams and wax makers who say everybody gets access to the same products.

And so, it would appear that the hot seat that Nystad’s sitting on right now could stand to get hotter tomorrow, which will see the men’s and women’s team sprints in classic technique.

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.”