U.S. Ski Team forms foundation in memory of Astle, Berlack

Ronnie Berlack, Bryce Astle

The group of young skiers on that tragic day saw only this: A slope that wasn’t roped off and blanketed in fresh snow.

What they didn’t know was the region had a level-three warning for avalanches that morning, meaning there was “considerable risk.” U.S. Ski Team prospects Bryce Astle and Ronnie Berlack were killed in a slide on Jan. 5, 2015, in Soelden, Austria, while some of their teammates escaped.

As a tribute and a way to better educate skiers, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) formed the Bryce and Ronnie Athlete Safety and Security (BRASS) Foundation. The mission will be to develop a how-to guide to not only keep skiers out of harm’s way on the slopes, but to tackle other issues such as what to do in case of a terrorist attack at an airport and travel from city to city given that the racers are on the road so much.

The board members include the parents of Berlack and Astle, along with a sports psychologist, a retired FBI agent, avalanche specialists and security experts.

“This whole thing was driven out of a tragedy and the thought of, ‘How can we make sure it doesn’t happen again?'” said George “Jory” Macomber, a longtime educator who will chair the committee.

On that day in 2015, Berlack, Astle and the rest of the group spotted an inviting slope after a big snowfall. They didn’t realize it hadn’t been controlled for avalanche mitigation. They were caught in the massive snow slide.

“We have learned through our investigation and interviews with the group of athletes and coaches on the Soelden trip that the group was unprepared for the risk encountered on that fateful day,” USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw said in a statement. “Ronnie and Bryce were talented and experienced world-class skiers who would not have taken unnecessary risks.”

The USSA will provide the initial seed money to launch the foundation, which will rely on fundraising to support its objective over time. Macomber said the committee has general goals for now, but will narrow the focus once members begin meeting.

“It’s really about everything outside the netting and the course: Training situations, free skiing, travel, lodging, driving,” Macomber said. “This is the next logical step to improving our safety for athletes and coaches.”

At the forefront will be avalanche safety. But the committee also wants to address such topics as what to do in case of an attack like the one at the Brussels Airport and subway in March.

“As we collectively mourn the loss of Bryce and Ronnie, we recognize the importance of safety training and planning at all levels of athlete development,” Shaw said. “This is why we are launching a nationwide effort in their memory to promote comprehensive, meaningful and continuous safety and security planning.

“USSA is committed to raising awareness within our own programs, as well as helping clubs, coaches, and athletes better understand the risks inherent in skiing. Through this effort, the USSA and the foundation will seek to reduce the possibility of tragedies occurring like the one which took Ronnie and Bryce from us.”

This is how much Astle and Berlack mean to this team: They were named to the U.S. squad last November as family and friends gathered in Copper Mountain, Colo., to remember the talented skiers.

The parents of Astle and Berlack will be a driving force on the committee.

“It is our hope that through time, (Ronnie) continues to inspire athletes to reach for their limitless potential, and to be safe doing it,” Cindy and Steve Berlack said in a statement.

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Coco Gauff into French Open quarterfinals, where Iga Swiatek may await

Coco Gauff French Open

Coco Gauff swept into the French Open quarterfinals, where she could play Iga Swiatek in a rematch of last year’s final.

Gauff, the sixth seed, beat 100th-ranked Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 7-5, 6-2 in the fourth round. She next plays Swiatek or 66th-ranked Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, who meet later Monday.

Gauff earned a 37th consecutive win over a player ranked outside the top 50, dating to February 2022. She hasn’t faced a player in the world top 60 in four matches at Roland Garros, but the degree of difficulty is likely to ratchet up in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Swiatek won all 12 sets she’s played against Gauff, who at 19 is the only teenager in the top 49 in the world.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Also Monday, No. 7 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia dispatched 36th-ranked American Bernarda Pera 6-3, 6-1, breaking all eight of Pera’s service games.

Jabeur, runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, has now reached the quarterfinals of all four majors.

Jabeur next faces 14th-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia, who won 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-5 over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo, who played on a protected ranking of 68. Haddad Maia became the second Brazilian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in the Open Era (since 1968) after Maria Bueno, who won seven majors from 1959-1966.

Pera, a 28 year-old born in Croatia, was the oldest U.S. singles player to make the fourth round of a major for the first time since Jill Craybas at 2005 Wimbledon. Her defeat left Gauff as the lone American singles player remaining out of the 35 entered in the main draws.

The last American to win a major singles title was Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought matches the longest in history (since 1877) for American men and women combined.

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U.S. earns first three-peat in Para hockey world championship history

Para Ice Hockey
International Paralympic Committee

The U.S. trounced rival Canada 6-1 to become the first nation to three-peat in world Para hockey championship history.

Tournament MVP Declan Farmer scored twice, and Josh Misiewicz, David Eustace, Jack Wallace and Kevin McKee added goals. Jen Lee made eight saves in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, on Sunday.

Farmer, who had nine goals in five games for the tournament, also scored twice in Paralympic final wins over Canada in 2018 and 2022 and the last world championship final against Canada in 2021. Farmer, 25, already owns the career national team record of more than 250 points.

The U.S. beat Canada in a third consecutive world final dating to 2019, but this was the most lopsided gold-medal game in championship history. The U.S. also won the last four Paralympic titles dating to 2010.

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