Open-water swimmers move one step from making Olympic team

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Rio Olympians Haley Anderson and Jordan Wilimovsky are among four U.S. open-water swimmers who on Friday qualified for the world championships, moving one step from making the Tokyo Games.

Anderson, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, and Wilimovsky, who had fourth- and fifth-place finishes in 2016, will be joined by potential first-time Olympians Ashley Twichell and David Heron.

Twichell and Anderson finished second and third behind Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha on Friday. Wilimovsky and Heron were second and fourth as the top Americans in the men’s event won by Italian Olympic 1500m freestyle champion Gregorio Paltrinieri.

The top 10 overall in the men’s and women’s races at worlds in Gwangju, South Korea, in July qualify for the Olympics.

Anderson, 27, and Wilimovsky, 25, both qualified for the Rio Games at the 2015 World Championships, with Wilimovsky earning that world title. Wilimovsky followed that with a silver in 2017, with Anderson taking sixth at those most recent worlds.

The open-water 10km, which debuted at the Olympics in 2008, is the only swim event on the most recent Olympic program that the U.S. has never won.

MORE: U.S. swimmers qualified for world championships

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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.”