Amantle Montsho, former 400m World champion, banned 2 years

Amantle Montsho

Botswana’s 2011 World 400m champion Amantle Montsho was banned two years after she tested positive for a banned stimulant at the Commonwealth Games in July, according to reports.

She plans to appeal, according to The Associated Press. It’s unclear if the backdated two-year ban will keep her from being able to compete in the Rio Olympics in August 2016.

Montsho, 31, was fourth in the 400m at the London 2012 Olympics and won silver at the 2013 World Championships. She was a top rival to Americans Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix.

In 2011, Felix ran a personal best in the World Championships 400m final and took silver, .03 behind Montsho, whose winning time was a national record. Felix then abandoned the 400m and ran the 100m and 200m at the London Olympics, winning the 200m. Felix has said she is more likely to add the 400m than the 100m to her favored 200m in this Olympic cycle.

If Montsho is out, the top threats to Richards-Ross’ bid for a repeat Olympic 400m gold are Great Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu, the 2008 Olympic champion and 2013 World champion, American Francena McCorory and perhaps Felix.

Sanya Richards-Ross wants revenge in 2015, history in 2016

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.”