Haley Anderson wins Pan Pacs open-water 10K by .01 after jellyfish sting, move to Maui

Haley Anderson

Haley Anderson definitely earned some relaxation time in Maui.

The Olympic silver medalist won the Pan Pacific Championships open-water 10K swim by .01 over U.S. teammate Eva Fabian in Hawaii on Sunday. Andrew Gemmell won the men’s race for a U.S. sweep.

Anderson’s victory came less than two weeks after she suffered a jellyfish sting in training, a hazard unique to open-water swimmers, one that Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin don’t have to worry about.

It also came one week after the Pan Pacs open-water races were moved to Maui from Gold Coast, Australia, due to high pollution levels following heavy rain Down Under.

“The whole situation was pretty nuts,” Anderson said. “If anybody can handle it, it’s open-water swimmers. We’re always at the whim of nature.”

Anderson, 22, said she suffered the jellyfish sting Aug. 18, her first day of practice in Gold Coast.

“I think I had an allergic reaction to [the jellyfish sting],” Anderson said. “I got hives all down my legs. It was nasty, like pinkish-reddish.”

Undeterred, she swam in the pool at Pan Pacs three days later, finishing seventh in the 800m freestyle won by Katie Ledecky.

Three days after that, she learned that her primary race at Pan Pacs, the open-water 10K, was postponed by six days and moved 4,750 miles to Maui, in conjunction with the junior Pan Pacific Championships.

“I was pumped,” Anderson said. “I was like, ‘We’re going to Maui!'”

Anderson said the water in Hawaii was so excellent she saw a turtle beneath her as she swam. She also wasn’t hampered by the often-times physical nature of open-water races. She said she led for about three-quarters of the race, staying out of traffic.

She finished in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 51 seconds. Fabian was one second behind. Another American, Becca Mann, was two seconds back. In all, seven swimmers were within 10 seconds of Anderson at the end of the grueling event.

“The last lap in general was just a sprint to the finish,” Anderson said. “You just worry about what you can do and play to your own strengths.”

Anderson has now won medals at the biggest meets the last three years — silver in the 2012 Olympic 10K, gold in the 2013 World Championships 5K and now her first Pan Pacs medal of any color.

Her focus will stay on the 10K going into next year’s World Championships in Kazan, Russia. There, she can qualify for the Rio Olympics. The 10K is the only open-water event contested at the Olympics. No American has won gold in Olympic open-water swimming, which debuted in 2008.

Gwen Jorgensen wins World Championship in triathlon

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.”