Dustin Johnson, world No. 5 golfer, will not play Olympics

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Dustin Johnson, the world’s fifth-ranked golfer, will not play in the Olympics should he qualify.

“Dustin gave the Olympics a great deal of thought, and we discussed the pros and cons of him participating at length,” Johnson’s manager said in an email, according to Golfweek. “At the end of the day, it’s a matter of personal preference and priority. As much as he would be honored to be an Olympian, the FedEx Cup Playoffs are also very important to him. Having had a few close calls in the Playoffs, he really wants to win them before his time is done and feels that he wouldn’t be giving himself the best opportunity to do so if he added a lengthy international trip just prior to their beginning (and shortly after returning from two weeks in Europe).”

The Tokyo Olympic men’s golf tournament is July 30-Aug. 2, two weeks after the Open Championship. The FedEx Cup Playoffs begin Aug. 16.

Johnson previously said in January that he wasn’t sure the Olympics would fit well into his schedule.

Johnson, the 2016 U.S. Open winner and world No. 1 in 2017 and 2018, is the third-highest ranked American at the moment behind Brooks Koepka (who also spoke about the Olympics in January, saying it’s not as important as majors) and Justin Thomas.

The top four Americans in the Official World Golf Ranking after the U.S. Open in June are in line to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Though Johnson is currently the third American in the world rankings, he was as of last week the No. 7 American in projected Olympic qualifying standings, according to rankings guru @VC606 on Twitter.

Projected Olympic qualifying standings differ from the current world rankings, in part because they take into account only tournaments after the 2018 U.S. Open. Therefore, Johnson’s win at the 2018 FedEx St. Jude Classic is part of his current world ranking score (albeit not a large part as more recent results are weighted the most in a two-year rolling window) but not his Olympic qualifying score.

Johnson’s absence presents one fewer golfer for Tiger Woods to pass to get into the U.S. top four. Woods is ranked 11th in the world and seventh among Americans. Given Woods’ limited schedule, he must maximize the tournaments he does play to boost his Olympic qualifying chances.

He may need to win one of the remaining top-tier tournaments — The PLAYERS Championship next week, the Masters in April, the PGA Championship in May or the U.S. Open in June.

Johnson did qualify for the Rio Olympics but withdrew a month before the Games, citing Zika virus concerns as other golfers did.

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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.”