IOC could suspend Kenya next week

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KENYA (AP) — The IOC has cut funding to Kenya and said Thursday it will make a decision over the country’s Olympic future at an executive board meeting next week, when the track and field power faces the prospect of being banned.

The IOC statement came after National Olympic Committee of Kenya executives, led by former distance running great Kip Keino, defied the IOC at a meeting on Tuesday and refused to make changes to their constitution.

It was the second time in a week where the NOCK failed to adopt governance changes in a new constitution, which the IOC has asked it to do.

Kenya will now be on the agenda of the IOC board meeting in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next Thursday and Friday, the IOC said. The IOC wouldn’t be drawn on whether Kenya’s Olympic committee would be suspended, but did not rule it out.

“The IOC is extremely disappointed by the outcome of the NOC extraordinary general assembly which did not address governance issues in the appropriate way,” the IOC said.

The IOC has now put on hold “all payments of subsidies to the NOC of Kenya” until a decision is made next week, it said.

Kenya is a force in track and field, finishing second behind the U.S. in the Rio Olympic track and field medal standings. But its track federation and Olympic committee have been dogged by scandals, most recently when high-ranking NOCK officials were arrested and charged with the theft of money and equipment provided by sponsor Nike following the Rio Games.

The one positive for Kenya is that an IOC ban now would give it three years to put its house in order before the next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

Kenya’s Olympic committee was effectively disbanded by the government following Rio and the IOC and the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa have been trying to piece it back together.

At Tuesday’s meeting, though, the 13 members of the NOCK executive committee voted against constitutional changes, which needed a two-thirds majority to be passed. The 19 sports federations affiliated to Kenya’s Olympic committee voted for the changes, but their votes weren’t enough.

IOC observers at Tuesday’s meeting left without commenting, but Kenyan track federation official Barnaba Korir said the country was in trouble.

“The observers looked very upset and my fear is Kenya is in for a big problem,” Korir said.

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MORE: Report shows level of chaos in Kenya Olympic team

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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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

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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.”