U.S. women sweep on final day of World Relays (videos)

World Relays
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The U.S. won all three women’s races at the first World Relays on Sunday, giving it victories in five of 10 overall events to close the meet in Nassau, Bahamas.

The American women captured the 4x200m, 4x400m and 4x800m one day after taking the 4x100m. Also Sunday, the American men won their first and only relay in the 4x400m. Jamaica took the men’s 4x100m (after the U.S. was disqualified in a preliminary heat). Kenya won the men’s 4x1500m in world-record time.

Overall, the U.S. (five), Kenya (three) and Jamaica (two) were the only nations to win races at the two-day meet.

The U.S. women topped Great Britain and Jamaica in the 4x200m with a quartet of Shalonda SolomonTawanna MeadowsBianca Knight and Kimberlyn Duncan. London Olympic 200m medalists Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter were not on the U.S. roster in Nassau.

The U.S. prevailed in 1 minute, 29.45 seconds, .16 better than Great Britain. Jamaica, with world 200m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on anchor, settled for third after a poor final baton exchange.

The U.S. women’s 4x400m, with 2012 Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross, won in 3:21.73, holding off Jamaica (3:23.26). The U.S. and Jamaica were even after Richards-Ross’ second leg, but veteran Natasha Hastings opened a lead that proved more than enough for anchor Joanna Atkins. World 4x400m champion Russia, long a U.S. rival in this event, did not enter a quartet despite being on the initial start list Saturday.

Yohan Blake anchored a Usain Bolt-less Jamaica to a sprint relay win for a second straight night, this time in the 4x100m in 37.77. The U.S. men missed the final after being disqualified for passing a baton out of the zone in their preliminary heat. On Saturday, the U.S. men’s 4x200m relay team was also disqualified on an illegal handoff.

Beijing Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt broke some 17,000 hearts at Thomas Robinson Stadium, passing the Bahamian 4x400m anchor on the final straight for victory. Merritt and the U.S. men, including Olympic and world triple jump champion Christian Taylor, clocked 2:57.25. The Bahamas, which won the 2012 Olympic 4x400m gold, was second in 2:57.59.

Kenya completed a world-record sweep of the men’s and women’s 4x1500m. World 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop crossed the finish in 14:22.22, 14 seconds faster than Kenya’s previous world record from 2009. The U.S., with Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano anchoring, held off Ethiopia for second place in 14:40.8.

But the U.S. women prevented Kenya from a middle-distance sweep, taking the 4x800m in 8:01.58, bettering Kenya by 2.7 seconds. World junior 800m champion Ajee’ Wilson handed a significant lead to anchor Brenda Martinez, the reigning world bronze medalist. Martinez, who also anchored the second-place U.S. 4x1500m team Saturday, was never challenged by Kenyan anchor Eunice Sum, the reigning world champion.

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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.”