Brazilian legend Pele ‘not physically able’ to attend Opening Ceremony

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One of the big questions in the days and hours leading up to the official beginning of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was what role Brazilian legend Pele would have in the Opening Ceremony. Given his list of accomplishments, both individually and as a member of three World Cup-winning teams in Brazil (1958, 1962 and 1970), it would only be right to have Edson Arantes do Nascimento in attendance, if not lighting the Olympic cauldron at the Maracanã Stadium Friday night.

Unfortunately Pele will not be in attendance, as health issues have forced him to remain home. Pele made the announcement via press release Friday afternoon.

“Only God is more important than my health,” Pele said in the release. “In my life, I’ve had fractures, surgeries, pain, hospital stays, victories and defeats. And I’ve always respected those who admire me.”

Pele underwent hip replacement surgery in 2012, and there was a surgical procedure performed on his prostate last May. In January Pele underwent surgery in New York City to repair the replacement hip, stating three months later that he was informed by the doctors of an error made in the original procedure.

“According to the doctors who examined me, there was a medical error. An error in the technique of the Brazilian doctors,” Pele said in April.

Pele did hold the Olympic Torch in his native Santos on July 22 at the Pele Museum, so he’s been involved in the process of getting the flame to the Maracanã. With Pele now officially unable to attend the Opening Ceremony, the question of who will light the Olympic cauldron remains a point of speculation.

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

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

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.”