Norway wins team event at Alpine skiing world championships

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — Most talk about the Norwegian ski team at the world championships has been about its many injured stars.

On Wednesday, Norway made the headlines for winning gold at the team event.

“It’s going to be a major boost, having a gold medal. That’s fantastic,” head coach Steve Skavik said. “It’s great for the team. In the team event, they can do it together.”

Thea Louise Stjernesund, Sebastian Foss-Solevåg and Fabian Wilkens Solheim won their runs in the all-Scandinavian final against Sweden for a 3-1 victory.

The team also included Kristina Riis-Johannessen and Kristin Lysdahl.

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“It’s nice,” Foss-Solevåg said. “We’re still a small but strong team and we showed them that we are strong without big stars.”

Norway arrived at the worlds without Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, Adrian Smiseth Sejersted, Lucas Braathen and Atle Lie McGrath, who have all been ruled out for the season with knee injuries.

Still, the Norwegian team eased past Japan (4-0) before edging the United States in the quarter-finals and defending champions Switzerland in the semis as both ties ended 2-2.

In case of a tie, the lowest added times from the best man and best woman on a team decides the winner.

In the final, Foss-Solevåg stopped racing midway through his heat against Kristoffer Jakobsen when the Swedish skier made a mistake and appeared to invade his course. The jury opted for a re-run which Solevåg won.

“Jakobson got on his inside ski and I saw him in my vision, like falling in,” the Norwegian said. “I am not risking my health and my legs for this so I stopped right away.”

Jakobson immediately acknowledged his mistake. “He totally agreed with me so there was actually no discussion,” Foss-Solevåg said.

Going by the rules, however, Jakobsen should have lost the heat right away as “interfering with an opponent, accidentally or not” is a reason for disqualification, according to section 5 of the mixed team parallel rules.

The incident came one day after the women’s individual parallel ended in controversy following a tie in the final. Marta Bassino was initially declared the sole winner before the Italian skier’s opponent, Katharina Liensberger of Austria, was awarded a second gold medal half an hour later.

Germany beat Switzerland for bronze after a 2-2 tie in Wednesday’s team event, while Sweden eliminated three-time champion Austria in the quarter-finals.

The American team, without Mikaela Shiffrin, beat Russia in the last 16 before losing to Norway.

“It’s tough, tiebreaks are always hard,” said U.S. skier Nina O’Brien, who is set to compete again in Thursday’s giant slalom.

“Today I am racing this and other girls are probably training GS. I don’t know which way would be an advantage. But at least it’s time on skis and in a race.”

Italian racer Lara Della Mea fell hard on her back after losing control during a first-round heat against Finland and was taken off the course on a sled.

The Italian team said Della Mea will be out for the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.

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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.”