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Olympic high jump champion to miss worlds; another blow for Canada

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Canadian Derek Drouin, the reigning Olympic and world high jump champion, will not defend his world title in London this weekend due to an Achilles tendon injury.

Drouin, a 27-year-old from the University of Indiana, has not competed since June 15, according to Tilastopaja.org, due in part to the injury.

“I knew I was dealing with an injury that would make my chances of competing come down to the wire,” Drouin said in an Athletics Canada press release. “My support team did everything they could to give my Achilles time to heal, we didn’t want to rush back. We just ran out of time. I’ve been progressing, but wasn’t able to get into championship level shape that I expect of myself.”

Drouin had a top high jump clearance this year of 2.33 meters, which ties for fourth in the world for 2017. Drouin won in Rio with a 2.38-meter clearance and at the 2015 Worlds with a 2.34-meter clearance.

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim was the overwhelming favorite in London even before Drouin’s withdrawal. Barshim owns Olympic silver and bronze and a 2013 World silver medal but has no global outdoor titles. He has cleared 2.36 meters or better at three different meets this year. Nobody else has cleared higher than 2.35 meters.

Before the Achilles injury, Drouin had been training for the decathlon with an eye on multi-eventing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Drouin’s absence is the latest blow for Canada, which claimed six medals in Rio (its most since 1932) and a national recod eight at the 2015 Worlds.

Andre De Grasse, a triple Rio sprint medalist, withdrew before worlds with a strained hamstring.

Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

MORE: How Gracie Gold landed in Philadelphia, thoughts competitive return

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