Yelena Isinbayeva: Competing under Olympic Flag not possible

Yelena Isinbayeva
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Yelena Isinbayeva, Russia’s most famous track and field athlete and a two-time Olympic pole vault champion, pleaded her case to be allowed to compete in Rio in a New York Times opinion piece Wednesday.

“There have been suggestions that I compete under the I.O.C. flag,” Isinbayeva wrote. “But this doesn’t seem like a real possibility. If I compete, it will be as a Russian. If the entire Russian team is suspended, I will be suspended, too.”

Russian track and field athletes have been indefinitely barred from competing internationally by the IAAF since November due to the country’s poor anti-doping record.

The IAAF is expected to announce Friday whether the ban will be lifted in time for Russian track and field athletes like Isinbayeva to compete in Rio.

Isinbayeva has for months defended herself and separated herself from her country’s large number of track and field athletes who have failed or evaded drug tests. She said in May that she would sue if barred from the Rio Games, which would be her fifth and likely final Olympics.

Isinbayeva wrote again Wednesday that she has never failed a drug test in more than a decade of being a world-class athlete.

“As Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, said, ‘The Olympic Games were created for the exaltation of the individual athlete,'” Isinbayeva wrote. “The I.A.A.F. should not punish all of us for the wrongdoing of some.”

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.”