Olympic champion Florent Manaudou returns to the pool with sights set on Tokyo

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Olympic gold medalist Florent Manaudou of France is back to competitive swimming after more than two years away.

The 28-year-old, who won gold in the 50m free at the London 2012 Games and two silver medals in Rio before taking a hiatus, told L’Equipe he plans to train for the Tokyo 2020 Games with the International Swimming League (ISL) Energy Standard squad.

“I’ve been thinking for months. I want to resume the competition,” he told L’Equipe. “For some time, I miss it more and more…talking with my family, my former coaches, I set myself a challenge: to jump [back] in the competition.”

One of the first people he consulted was his sister, Laure, who won gold in the 400m free at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Florent, then 13, watched from the stands in Greece, but they made a pact to compete together at the Olympics, fulfilling that goal in London.

Entering the Rio Games as the reigning Olympic and world champion in the 50m free, Manaudou was the favorite in an often unpredictable event. He came up just .01 seconds short of a second straight Olympic title, finishing behind American Anthony Ervin. After the Games, Manaudou told French newspaper La Provence that his ultimate goal was to compete at the Olympics in two different sports, and shifted his attention to handball (his father, Jean-Luc, was a handball player and coach). Manaudou also worked as a commentator for French TV during the 2017 World Championships and 2018 European Championships.

But still, the pool was calling. And Manaudou sensed he had untapped potential.

“I don’t even know what I can do,” he said, according to L’Equipe. 

He’ll have a team of accomplished training mates with the Energy Standard team: Olympic gold medalists Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden and South Africa’s Chad le Clos are both team captains.

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.”