China tops Rio Olympic medal standings in expert’s projection

Rio 2016
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China would top the Rio Olympic medal standings and the U.S. would win its fewest medals in 56 years if the results were based on the most recent World Championships across all Olympic sports, according to Italian Luciano Barra, who projects Olympic medal counts.

Barra, a former Italian Olympic Committee senior member, tallied 94 total medals for China and 82 for the U.S. Barra totaled the most gold medals for the U.S. (35) over China (32).

The last time the U.S. won 82 Summer Olympic medals or fewer was Rome 1960 (excluding the boycotted Moscow 1980 Games). Rome 1960 had half the medal events of Rio 2016’s record total of 306.

Russia came in a distant third in both counts.

Olympic host nation Brazil has 20 medals, including three golds, far below its 2016 goal, but it will receive a boost from the home-field advantage next year.

The only medals not included in the projections are in women’s handball, whose World Championships finish later this month.

At least one nation has captured at least 100 medals in each of the last three Olympics.

The U.S. and China separated from the rest of the world in the Olympic medal counts the last few Games. The U.S. has won the overall medal count at each of the last five Summer Olympics and the gold-medal count at four of the last five. China earned the most gold medals at Beijing 2008.

In December 2011, Barra’s projections had China easily topping the overall and gold-medal counts for the 2012 Olympics (103 and 43 versus the same 82 and 35 for the U.S.), according to The Associated Press.

But the U.S. excelled at the London Games, earning 103 medals and 46 golds, well ahead of second-place China (88 medals, 38 golds).

Here’s Barra’s accumulated 2016 projected medal count ranking the top 10 nations in gold medals:

Luciano Barra

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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.”