Katelin Guregian’s last call in rowing — help the U.S. women’s eight regain its crown

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Katelin Guregian jokes that she had 20 different addresses in the last eight years as the coxswain of the decorated U.S. women’s eight. That’s not that uncommon in rowing, where the best of the best often live with host families near the national team center in Princeton, N.J.

Guregian, who in the last Olympic cycle guided the American program to a third straight gold medal and sixth, seventh and eighth straight world titles, will move again after this summer.

She has lived apart from her husband, fellow Rio Olympic rower Nareg Guregian, for two and a half years. Nareg now works for Visa, based in California. She turns 33 a week after the Olympics and wants to start a family.

“Absolutely it’s my last Olympics,” Guregian said in November, adding that she wants to make Tokyo her last regatta of any kind. “Rowing, you have to give everything in order to be successful. For me, it’s not sustainable to keep giving everything for another quad. Even this quad, there have been some times where I’ve been like, oh man, not this again. You can’t have that thought. You can’t voice that thought. It’s like, OK, I’m ready. It’s someone else’s turn.”

Guregian, an Orlando native, crashed into a dock in her debut as a coxswain. The hull cracked in two places, and the boat had to be sent back to the manufacturer to be repaired.

She went on to cox the men’s team at the University of Washington. Then succeeded two-time Olympic champion Mary Whipple at the stern of the U.S. women’s program, extending the golden reign from 2013-16.

U.S. coach Tom Terhaar still remembers the end of the Rio Olympic final. Guregian, 5 feet, 4 inches and 110 pounds, violently splashed her arms into the water at about 1,995 meters of a 2,000-meter race.

“And some of the other athletes going, well, I guess we crossed the finish line,” Terhaar said with a laugh. “She was probably too excited to even speak, and that was the way she could express it.”

But Guregian’s favorite memory was in the meat of the six-minute cauldron: the third quarter from 1000m to 1500m. The grittiest part of a race, she likes to say. The U.S. went from third to first and never looked back.

“The only thing I said [to the team] was, ‘We are the United States women’s eight,'” Guregian remembered, conjuring Whipple’s call during the Beijing 2008 final that started this Olympic run. “We were here for this, and this is what we want, and we are here for each other, and we’re here for the women that came before us, was enough to help us execute our race.”

That kind of statement showed what made Guregian a special coxswain.

“She isn’t sitting back there critiquing and setting herself apart from the performance,” Terhaar said. “She’s completely in it, completely one of them. … It’s never they. It’s always we.”

The U.S. women’s eight, dubbed a dynasty throughout the Rio Olympic cycle, since experienced major defeat for the first time in more than a decade. The Americans were fourth at worlds in 2017. After gold in 2018, they earned bronze this past summer with two other returning members from Rio (one of them coming out of retirement).

“That’s such a crummy feeling,” Guregian said. “My role on the team is two-fold because I’m helping people understand what they need to do in order to never be in that position again, but I’m also trying to convey to everyone, don’t overthink it.”

Guregian does more than that. She cuts her teammates’ hair. She is also mentoring Leigh Warner, the 2018 Stanford graduate and coxswain-in-waiting for the next Olympic cycle. Together, they created a jocular Instagram — @launchtalks — to “deal with the stresses of training.”

“I want to be part of [Warner’s] journey so that if she’s successful in 2024, I will feel like I have part of that,” Guregian said. “I will feel pride and ownership in her success, even though it’s not me executing.”

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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.”