Pavle Jovanovic, Olympic bobsledder, dies at 43

Pavle Jovanovic
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Pavle Jovanovic, a 2006 U.S. Olympic bobsledder, took his life on Sunday. He was 43.

U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton confirmed Jovanovic’s death on Saturday. A number of U.S. bobsled team members remembered him on social media.

“Pav, I can’t believe another one of these needs to be written,” was posted on Olympic teammate Steve Mesler‘s Instagram. “I can’t believe it’s you I’m writing this about. My personal legend – the athlete that set the standard for focus, dedication, meticulousness, and drive – tragically took his own life at the age of 43.”

Mesler wrote that Jovanovic was the best bobsledder on the planet for six years, “and I wanted to be just like him.”

Jovanovic, after missing the 2002 Olympics due to a contested positive drug test, placed seventh in the 2006 Olympic two- and four-man events as a push athlete in driver Todd Hays‘ sled.

A year earlier, Jovanovic was a push athlete in Steven Holcomb‘s sled at the world championships. Holcomb was found dead in his U.S. Olympic Training Center room in Lake Placid, N.Y., on May 6, 2017.

“Today we mourn the second bobsled Olympian in the last three years,” Mesler wrote. “Today I mourn the second of the six men I competed at the Olympics for my country with to be laid to rest too soon. ‘Bro’, that’s a problem.”

In 2002, Jovanovic missed the Olympics after testing positive for a banned steroid less than two months before the Salt Lake City Winter Games. He was suspended two years. Jovanovic insisted he unknowingly took a contaminated supplement and sued the manufacturer.

Mesler was put on the 2002 Olympic team in Jovanovic’s place, according to reports at the time, and later lived with Jovanovic in a Calgary house. Hays’ quartet earned silver without Jovanovic in Salt Lake City, the first U.S. men’s bobsled medals since 1956.

Jovanovic’s parents were from the former Yugoslavia. He first saw bobsled watching the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Games on TV and played middle linebacker for Rutgers before becoming a bobsledder.

“I only was on the team with Pavle for a short time but while I was, it was never a dull moment,” was posted on three-time U.S. Olympic bobsled medalist Elana Meyers Taylor‘s Instagram. “He was one of the first bobsledders who showed me how to be elite. RIP Pavle.”

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Pav, I can’t believe another one of these needs to be written. I can’t believe it’s you I’m writing this about. My personal legend – the athlete that set the standard for focus, dedication, meticulousness, and drive – tragically took his own life at the age of 43. You won’t have to keep going to the line with that hamstring torn in half anymore, buddy. We’ll make sure your brother, your sister, & your parents know the person and athlete you were. @TeamUSA's Pavle Jovanovic (‘77-‘20) for 6 years was the best bobsledder on the planet and I wanted to be just like him. We did everything together – from sushi in Calgary to poker in Innsbruck to wind tunnels in Maryland and too many World Cup medals to count all over the world. Together with @billschuffenhauer, B-Rock, Hays or Holcy & our coach @fingermash, we were unstoppable. When Pav was removed from the ‘02 Olympic Team by USADA & CAS, I benefitted. That guilt laid with me until Pav became my roommate, teammate, and for quite some time, my best friend. He alleviated me of the guilt, even as he fought in lawsuits (and won) to clear his name. But he buried it deep and put it on himself. Then we went to the '06 @olympics, together. Pav was the best teammate anyone ever had. He knew your success would mean his success. He taught me that. He taught me to care about my teammates' sleep, nutrition, therapy, & work ethic in the gym and behind closed doors just as much as you cared about your own. He taught me about the need for being mentally healthy – not for life, but for athletic success. And that may have been part of his downfall. What happens when the person who is best known as being 150% focused or nothing– finds the nothing becoming what they become 150% focused on? In the last era without social media to show everyone how hard you were working everyday; when the only time an outsider saw the work you put in was when you stepped to the line for raceday – Pavle was King. He WAS the standard. Today we mourn the second bobsled Olympian in the last three years. Today I mourn the second of the six men I competed at the Olympics for my country with to be laid to rest too soon. 'Bro', that’s a problem.

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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