USA Wrestling will not send athletes to world championships in December

AP
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USA Wrestling will not send a team to the world championships in December in Belgrade, citing health and safety issues from the coronavirus pandemic.

The federation’s executive committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the proposal not to participate.

“The health and safety of U.S. athletes, coaches and staff is always the No. 1 concern for USA Wrestling,” Bruce Baumgartner, a four-time Olympian and USA Wrestling president, said in a press release. “After reviewing updated medical, scientific and government data, and providing an opportunity for athlete and stakeholder input, the Executive Committee concluded that it would not be in the best interest of all involved to organize a delegation to travel to and participate in the Senior World Championships in Serbia.”

The 2020 World Championships have no bearing on Tokyo Olympic qualifying, either for quota spots for nations or for individual U.S. athletes.

USA Wrestling held a series of meetings before Tuesday’s decision, including medical, scientific and governmental experts, stakeholders and an athlete advisory committee. Plus, it sent a survey to 117 senior athletes asking about willingness to compete at December’s worlds.

Wrestlers cannot compete independent of a national federation at a world championships. USA Wrestling also decided not to send a team to world championships in 2002, due to safety reasons in host Iran.

Wrestling worlds have been held annually dating to 2005 and go back decades in non-Olympic years.

Before the pandemic, there were no wrestling worlds scheduled for 2020, ending a pattern of holding worlds in the autumn of Olympic years for non-Olympic weight classes.

In July, United World Wrestling announced a plan for a worlds in Belgrade in December, should health and safety measures be met. It also mandated that, to take place, eight of the world’s top 10 ranked teams must agree to take part, plus a minimum of 70 percent participating countries based on 2019 attendance.

It will include competition in the same 30 divisions as the 2019 World Championships across men’s freestyle, women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman.

“We are cautiously optimistic about wrestling’s return in December,” United World Wrestling president Nenad Lalovic said in an Oct. 12 press release, which noted that junior worlds, slated in Belgrade for the week before senior worlds, were canceled “after feedback from the national federations indicated concerns about the number of participants able to attend.”

A bureau will meet Nov. 6 to review the senior worlds, assessing the pandemic’s impact on participation.

USA Wrestling held a national championships two weeks ago in Iowa with some of its stars competing, notably Kyle Snyder and Adeline Gray, that could have played a role in a world championships team selection process.

Snyder withdrew during the meet with an injury. Gray won and planned to enter worlds had the U.S. planned to send a team.

The U.S. Olympic Trials were rescheduled from April 2020 to April 2021 at Penn State University.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
Getty
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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.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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