Sun Yang requests second national anthem after flags fall in Asian Games medal ceremony

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Sun Yang thought he’d seen it all in his glittering swimming career. That was until Sunday’s opening night of swimming finals at the Asian Games.

In an embarrassing technical blunder for games organizers, the flag hoist collapsed during the playing of the Chinese national anthem as Sun stood atop the podium after winning the 200m freestyle. Video is here.

Officials picked the flags up off the pool deck and hastily reattached them to the broken metal hoist but were unable to raise them again while the anthem was played for a second time, to the bemusement of Sun and spectators watching in the stands.

Diplomatically, Sun played down the incident when quizzed by reporters, saying he was just relieved to finally win the 200m free title which had eluded him in the two previous editions of the Asian Games.

Even though he is the reigning Olympic and world champion, Sun had never won the four-lap race at the Asian games, finishing runner-up to South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan in 2010 and second again to Japan’s Kosuke Hagino four years ago.

“I’ve waited eight years for this title,” Sun said. “It also gives me a golden grand slam of Olympic, world and Asian titles. It’s a perfect result, a dream. It’s unbelievable.”

Officials held the flags up in their hands for the subsequent medal ceremony before locating a replacement hoist for the remaining presentations. By the end of the night, China edged Japan 4-3 in the first seven finals decided.

Sun, who is trying to win the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees in Jakarta, cruised to victory in one minute 45.43 seconds.

He was outside his best, but with a busy program the 26-year-old did enough to win comfortably and celebrated in animated fashion, clenching his fists and punching the air in delight.

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MORE: Five thoughts off Pan Pacific Championships

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.”