Aksel Lund Svindal injured playing soccer, likely out most of season

Aksel Lund Svindal

Aksel Lund Svindal, a three-time Olympic medalist and two-time World Cup overall champion, ruptured an Achilles tendon playing soccer Saturday and will probably miss most of the Alpine skiing season.

The Norwegian suffered the injury eight days before the start of the World Cup season in Soelden, Austria.

“The whole team had gone for a short jog in Soelden, followed by juggling and playing with a football,” Svindal said in a press release, according to the International Ski Federation. “Suddenly, I felt like something hit my leg hard and I knew immediately what was wrong.”

Svindal, 31, was looking forward to making up for a poor Olympics, where he was fourth, seventh and eighth in three races. He pulled out before the end of the Olympics due to allergies and fatigue.

Svindal won super-G gold, downhill silver and giant slalom bronze at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

“A bitter injury and extremely poor timing with the season just about to start,” Svindal said. “However, what has happened, has happened – So, now I need to look forward focus on the future. Nobody knows how long the rehabilitation will take, but I am prepared for that it will take some time.”

Svindal’s absence on this season’s World Cup circuit will give Ted Ligety, Bode Miller and Travis Ganong better shots at crystal globes.

Svindal was second in the World Cup overall standings and won the season titles in the downhill and super-G last season.

Ligety was fourth in the World Cup overall standings. Miller was fifth in the super-G and eighth in the downhill. Ganong earned his first career World Cup podium in a post-Olympics downhill in March.

Also, Austrian Marcel Hirscher has one less rival in his quest to win a fourth straight World Cup overall title, which no man has ever done.

A Norwegian national team doctor’s timetable could rule Svindal out of the World Championships in Colorado in February.

“Aksel must now train carefully the next few weeks, and he will most likely not be ready to ski again for the next three or four months,” Dr. Marc Jacob Strauss said in a press release.

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.”