Veteran U.S. Paralympic medalists added three more Alpine skiing medals on the first day of competition at the Paralympics on Saturday.
The greatest success came in women’s sitting downhill, where Alana Nichols and Laurie Stephens took silver and bronze. Nichols, the first U.S. woman to win gold medals in the Summer and Winter Paralympics, took her sixth career Paralympic medal. She was .14 of a second behind gold medalist Anna Schaffelhuber of Germany.
“I really feel like I could have skied better,” Nichols said, according to TeamUSA.org. “Not terribly happy with the performance today, but considering I hung in there and was able to finish in second, I consider it a win.”
Stephens won her fifth career Paralympic medal.
Earlier, seven-time Paralympian Allison Jones led it off with a bronze in the standing downhill. Jones, who has won Summer and Winter Paralympic medals in cycling and Alpine skiing, bagged the eighth of her career.
The defending Olympic champion U.S. men’s ice sledge hockey team beat Italy 5-1 to open its schedule. It got two goals from Brody Roybal.
The U.S. wheelchair curling team lost its first two games, 6-4 to Slovakia and 9-5 to South Korea.
Russia won 12 medals overall Saturday to take a comfortable lead in the overall medal table. The U.S.’ three medals tied for third after the first of 10 days of competition.
Sochi Paralympics broadcast schedule
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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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.”