Donovan Bailey jumps off CN Tower; Steve Nash lights cauldron at Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony (video)

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Steve Nash was asked June 24 who he thought would light the cauldron at the Pan American Games Opening Ceremony.

The question clearly caught him unprepared. Nash stumbled and mumbled at first.

Wayne Gretzky,” he eventually said in a telephone interview for this Olympic Q&A, “but there are so many great candidates. Sometimes it’s not the most high-profile athletes.”

Nash was wrong, but maybe he knew all along. It wouldn’t be Gretzky lighting the cauldron in Toronto on Friday night. But it was very much a high-profile athlete.

Nash was the man tapped to light the Pan American Games cauldron at the Opening Ceremony, receiving the flame from the next great Canadian basketball star — NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins (who had received the flame from his mom, 1984 Olympic 400m runner Marita Payne-Wiggins).

It’s the second time Nash, a 2000 Olympian, has been part of a multisport event cauldron lighting in Canada.

In 2010, he helped light the Vancouver Winter Olympic cauldron, after a malfunction delay (Nash remembered that nervous delay in last month’s Q&A).

It capped a night that also started with a highlight. A video was shown of the 1996 Canadian Olympic champion 4x100m relay team running through Toronto with the flame, one torch bearer at a time passing to the next.

Eventually, Bruny Surin carried the flame briskly along the CN Tower EdgeWalk and handed to 1996 Olympic 100m champion Donovan Bailey, just as he did the baton at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Stadium on Aug. 3, 1996.

Bailey then base jumped off the 1,800-foot-high building (via stunt double) — and, in a nice bit of technology — dropped into Rogers Centre with the flame to set off the Opening Ceremony.

Other Canadian legends involved in the Opening Ceremony included Hockey Hall of Famers Bobby Orr and Mark Messier, MLB Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, two-time Olympic triathlon champion Simon Whitfield, two-time Olympic 500m speed skating champion Catriona LeMay Doan and six-time Paralympic track and field medalist Rick Hansen.

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.”