Carolina Kostner, working her way back to skating, to share life in Italy in COVID benefit

Carolina Kostner
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When Canadian ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver reached out, Carolina Kostner didn’t need to hear specifics. Kostner was on board.

Weaver, a three-time world medalist with Andrew Poje, organized “Open Ice,” a benefit fundraiser for the United Nations’ Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Weaver will host a three-hour talk show from her New York City apartment at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, streaming live on the International Skating Union’s YouTube channel. More information is available at Openicelive.com.

Weaver will virtually welcome some of the world’s best figure skaters, including Nathan Chen, Adam Rippon, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano and Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

The international guests include the Italian Kostner, who has a story to tell.

The world champion and Olympic medalist has been in the same home for about three months with her boyfriend in the Rome area. She had hip surgery near there on Jan. 23, addressing an injury that plagued her for years and is at least partly why she hasn’t competed since the 2018 World Championships.

She said it’s too early to tell whether her return to skating will be purely in non-competitive shows, or if an Olympic-level comeback is possible.

“I’ve tried many different therapies, but the pain just did not get better,” she said Friday. “I am very confident that I will be able to skate again, and I will be able to perform again. I can’t wait. I will slowly build it so that I can skate for many years.

“For sure, my big dream is to be able to compete, represent my country.”

Kostner earned Olympic bronze at age 27 in 2014. Then in PyeongChang, she placed fifth as the oldest Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928.

The March 2018 World Championships were in Milan, leading many to wonder if she would retire there, especially after topping the short program. Kostner ended up fourth.

‘You will feel strongly when it is time to stop,” Kostner said before that event, according to The Associated Press, “and I haven’t felt it yet.”

Kostner is thankful for her current situation. She was planning to stay there for the duration of her physical therapy anyway. Her boyfriend’s place has an outside garden. They cook together and watch movies. He read through Les Misérables.

“Now it’s starting to lighten up a little bit in the borders of the towns,” she said. “Basically, in my own town, I can walk quite freely without being stopped, but as soon as I leave the town, they block you and you need a reason to go out. It’s basically only necessary actions like medical reasons or for grocery shopping or for work.”

On Saturday’s show, Kostner said she may join at the same time as Spanish Olympic medalist Javier Fernandez. They could share what life is like in two of Europe’s most affected countries.

“I miss skating so much,” she said. “Not because of my injury but because of the whole situation.”

Weaver, born in Texas and a Canadian citizen since 2009, said she developed the benefit idea from watching Rosie O’Donnell‘s streaming Broadway show generate $600,000. She received commitments from more than 50 skaters, coaches and others within the sport to fill the three-hour show.

“The great thing about our skating community is, all competition aside, we’re one big family,” said Weaver, who is co-producing with Jordan Cowan. “I reached out, and I asked the question. If I didn’t have a phone number, I got one. This is a time where people are wanting to engage and help.”

Weaver and Poje, who began competing together on the top level in 2007, took the 2019-20 season off to evaluate their future. They planned to attend March’s world championships in Montreal as spectators.

“That could have given us a really good idea as to whether we felt like we were missing something,” she said. “When the disease started changing everyone’s lives, obviously that took the primary spot. So we haven’t even considered any other option right now.”

With worlds canceled, Canadians especially missed out on an experience that Kostner knows well. Kostner said she would not trade the honor of carrying her nation’s flag into the 2006 Torino Olympic Opening Ceremony for an Olympic medal. She cherished what could be her last competition two years ago, also in her home country.

“Milan in 2018 felt not like a figure skating competition, but it felt like a soccer game,” she said. “It felt very special to be appreciated not just because you win a medal or you are a champion, but also as a human being of the career you had, the example you’ve been, the people you’ve inspired.”

MORE: Takeaways from abbreviated figure skating season

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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.”