Emma Coburn wins Olympic Trials steeplechase, eyes end to U.S. drought

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Stephanie Garcia was in the mix for an Olympic spot in steeplechase until the final lap.

First, she got passed for the third position.

Then, in her quest to catch up, she stumbled over the last barrier and went tumbling.

Emma Coburn, Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley got the trips to Rio. Garcia said she still earned a victory of sorts.

“I knew if I didn’t make it, then I was going to make those who did work very, very hard,” she said.

Coburn, the American record holder, prevailed in 9:17.48, followed by first-time Olympians Frerichs (9:20.92) and Quigley (9:21.29).

Coburn goes to her second Olympics, after finishing ninth in London and fifth at the 2015 World Championships, eyeing the first U.S. Olympic or world medal in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, which was first contested in 2005.

“Our international competition is really good, and there are a few Kenyans, but there’s also a Tunisian and a German and a Bahrainian and an Ethiopian,” Coburn said. “It’s all over the place. I think what’s most impressive is when looking across all countries we seem to have the most depth for women who can run under 9:25. We have a really deep field of women. And we’re also very young. I’m 25, and I’m one of the older girls. We have a really young group of talented women who I think will continue to make world finals and Olympic finals and hopefully contending for medals against our international competition.”

Track and Field Trials: ResultsDaily Schedule | TV Schedule

Other happenings on Day 6 of Olympic Trials:

200 METERS: World silver medalist Justin Gatlin, World 400m champion LaShawn MerrittTyson Gay, Mike Rodgers and Wallace Spearmon, who is trying to return to the upper-echelon of this race after struggling with injuries, all made it through their first-round heats with ease.

MORE: Merritt eyes Michael Johnson-like double in Rio

SHOT DIVA: Michelle Carter (Twitter handle @shotdiva) already had her Olympic spot wrapped up. Then, she did the same thing as at world indoor championships in the spring: She won the meet on the last throw of the night. Her mark of 64 feet, 3 1/4 inches beat out Raven Saunders and knocked Felisha Saunders into third. Said veteran Jill Camarena-Williams, who finished fifth in what she said would be her last Olympic Trials: “I always wait to see Michelle’s last throw. I would never, ever leave.”

TRIPLE JUMP: Two-time NCAA champion Keturah Orji, who once dreamed of being an Olympic gymnast, will get a chance at another kind of title. She won the women’s triple jump and will head to Rio. On the men’s side, Christian Taylor‘s quest for an Olympic repeat is on track. He needed one jump to make it through qualifying, and will try to secure his spot Saturday.

MORE MEDALS: Among Olympic medal winners who made it through their qualifying rounds Thursday were Leon Manzano (1,500), Bershawn Jackson (400 hurdles) and Dawn Harper-Nelson (100 hurdles). Harper-Nelson, the 2008 gold medalist, was in the same heat with American record holder Keni Harrison, but barely noticed. “I tell my husband, ‘Tell me what lane I’m in and what heat. The rest doesn’t matter,'” Harper-Nelson said.

QUOTABLE: “With (Jamaica’s) rules, hopefully they’ll let him in. If not, it might be the first time the Olympic committee sends a personal invite to an athlete to come to the games. They’d lose some money if he didn’t show up.” — Wallace Spearmon, on the chances of Bolt making the Olympics despite his recent hamstring problems.

MORE: Aries Merritt faces more hurdles in months after kidney transplant

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.”