Ukraine hangs on, wins women’s biathlon relay

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Ukraine’s quartet of Vita Semerenko, Juliya Dzhmya, Valj Semerenko and Olena Pidhrushna built up a big lead and held on as the biathlon women’s relay tightened up late to claim a gold medal – and perhaps provide a momentary lift for their troubled country.

Their countryman – former Olympic gold medalist pole vaulter Sergey Bubka – cheered the victory:

Valj Semerenko missed three shots on the Ukrainians’ third leg but was able to hold onto the lead before making way for Pidhrushna, the 2013 world sprint champion.

Pidhrushna went 9-for-10 in the shooting and went on to win by 26.4 seconds over Olga Vilukhina, who brought home the silver for Russia’s team (Yana Romanova, Olga Zaitseva, Ekaterina Shumilova).

It marks Ukraine’s second Sochi medal in biathlon after Vita Semerenko’s bronze in the sprint.

Tora Berger, unable to reel in Vilukhina on the final leg, finished third to give Norway the bronze.

As for the U.S., it achieved its best-ever finish in this event with a seventh-place result. Competing for the U.S. tonight were Susan Dunklee, Hannah Dreissigacker, Sara Studebaker, and Annalies Cook.

Tonight’s race also marked the first ever non-podium finish for the Germans in this event, which went onto the Olympic program in the 1992 Albertville Games. Their team finished 11th.

MORE: U.S. speedskaters finish Sochi with no medals

1. Ukraine, 1:10:02.5
2. Russia, +26.4 seconds
3. Norway, +37.6 seconds

7. United States, 2:11.7

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.”