Marc Gasol has Olympic intentions, even if Lakers go deep in playoffs

Marc Gasol
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Spanish center Marc Gasol intends to play at the Tokyo Olympics, even if he’s coming off a deep NBA playoffs run with his new team — the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

“Hopefully, I arrive very tired and late at camp, which means we’ve played until the Final,” Gasol said in Spanish last week after announcing he signed with the Lakers. “We’ll see, my intention is always to be there, at least until this summer.”

A potential NBA Finals Game 7 will be July 22, the night before the Opening Ceremony. Olympic men’s basketball games start July 25. Normally, there is more than a month between the end of the Finals and the Olympics, and most to all of the healthy international stars in the NBA participate.

Gasol, at 35, knows it may be his last chance to play at the Olympics for Spain, which was eliminated from gold-medal contention at the last four Games by the U.S. (including in two finals).

“As long as you can physically be there, there’s a willingness especially when you are getting older and you know the window is getting smaller each time, so you enjoy it even more,” Gasol said. “It gives each moment you spend with your teammates added meaning.”

Last year, Gasol and Ricky Rubio (a veteran himself at 30) led Spain to the FIBA World Cup title, boosting hopes of a first Olympic gold in Tokyo. That roster lacked stalwart Pau Gasol, Marc’s older brother who underwent left foot surgery.

It’s unknown if Pau, a 40-year-old who is unsigned, will continue playing, though he reportedly said in early October that the goal was to go one more year to get to the Tokyo Games.

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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.”