Rio 2016 Olympic, Paralympic mascots’ names unveiled

Rio 2016 mascots
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The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic mascots’ names are Vinicius and Tom, respectively.

Those names won a public vote over two other sets of names, tallying 44 percent of 323,327 votes, according to the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee.

The other choices were Oba and Eba and Tiba Tuque and Esquindim.

The 2016 Olympics, the first to be held in South America, are 600 days away. The Opening Ceremony is Aug. 5, 2016.

Rio organizers explained the meaning behind Vinicius and Tom:

Vinicius and Tom honor musicians and partners Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim. The two are exponents of Bossa Nova, a movement that made everyone know and sing about the beauties of Rio. They were the creators of The Girl from Ipanema, one of the most played songs in the world. A well-tuned duo, like our mascots.

The Rio mascots were unveiled Nov. 23, along with a three-week vote on the names.

The mascots are magical creatures with super powers and both male, Rio 2016 brand director Beth Lula said.

The Olympic mascot represents the animals of Brazil — the agility of cats, sway of monkeys and grace of birds. He can stretch his arms and legs as much as he wants.

The Paralympic mascot represents the plants of Brazilian forests. He can pull any object from his head of leaves.

The London Olympic mascot was named Wenlock. The London Paralympic mascot was named Mandeville.

The Sochi Olympic mascots were Belya Mishka the polar bear, Zaika the hare and Amur the snow leopard.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the Sochi Olympic mascots did not have names.

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.”