Suspended pairs skating champion John Coughlin dies at 33

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John Coughlin, a two-time U.S. pairs champion recently suspended from figure skating, died by suicide in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 33.

U.S. Figure Skating released a statement Saturday and cited his sister, Angela Laune. The sister said in a Facebook post that her “wonderful, strong, amazingly compassionate brother John Coughlin took his own life. … I have no words.” There were no further details from her.

The Kansas City Police Department said in an email Saturday that officers responded to a call of a suicide at a house in the Country Lanes Estates neighborhood in Kansas City just before 5 p.m. Friday and found Coughlin’s body. Sgt. Jacob Becchina declined to give specifics on the death.

Coughlin received an interim suspension from the U.S. Center for SafeSport and USFS on Thursday for unspecified conduct. He was barred from any activities sanctioned by the skating body or the U.S. Olympic Committee.

USA Today first reported the death.

USFS said it was “stunned’ by the news and extended “heartfelt and deepest sympathies” to the family. The organization said it would have no further comment “until a later time.”

The International Skating Union also said it was “shocked” and offered “kindest thoughts” in this “time of sorrow.” Coughlin was chair of the ISU athletes commission and a member of a technical committee.

Coughlin won national pairs championships with two partners. He teamed with Caitlin Yankowskas in 2011 and with Caydee Denney the next year.

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

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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.”