Australian Olympic hopefuls asked to ‘tweet or compete’

Sally Pearson, Anna Meares
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Australia’s Olympic Committee asked its potential Olympians if they wanted to “tweet or compete” at the Rio Games next year, recommending they have a social media plan in place before the Olympics.

Australia and social media at the Olympics were a story at London 2012 and Sochi 2014.

In London, swimmer Emily Seebohm lamented her use of social media after taking silver in the 100m backstroke behind Missy Franklin. Seebohm’s preliminary heat time would have won the gold.

Before Sochi, it was announced Australian athletes were barred from posting on social media at training and competition venues at the Winter Games.

“Our athletes in London didn’t understand, and we didn’t understand either, the dangers or the distraction,” Australia Olympic chef de mission Kitty Chiller said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “We were worried about what people might say [online], but we weren’t concerned about the distraction. We now know that.”

Australian Olympic champions Sally Pearson (100m hurdles) and Anna Meares (track cycling) said they turned off their social media once in the London athletes’ village, in videos played at an Olympic hopefuls gathering Wednesday, according to Australian reports.

MORE: Australia men’s basketball team qualifies for Rio

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.”