Seiko Hashimoto named Tokyo Olympic president

Seiko Hashimoto
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TOKYO — Seiko Hashimoto appeared in seven Olympics — four Winter Olympics and three Summer Olympics. According to Olympedia‘s Bill Mallon, her seven appearances is the most by any “multi-season” athlete in the Games.

Hashimoto made even more history on Thursday in Japan, where women are still rare in the boardrooms and positions of political power.

The 56-year-old Hashimoto was named president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee after a meeting of its executive board, which is 80% male. She replaces 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori, a former Japanese prime minister who was forced to resign last week after making sexist comments about women.

Essentially, he said women talk too much.

“Now I’m here to return what I owe as an athlete and to return back what I received,” she told the board, speaking through an interpreter in Japanese.

Hashimoto had been serving as the Olympic minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. She also held a portfolio dealing with gender equality and women’s empowerment. She said she would be replaced as Olympic minister by Tamayo Marukawa.

She brought up the issue of gender speaking to the nearly all-male audience. Although the leader is now a woman, the issue of gender inequity in Japan remains.

“As the background to my selection, I understand that there is a gender-parity related factor,” she said. She said she hoped to work on the issue but was not specific.

Hashimoto competed in three Summer Olympics (’88, ‘92 and ’96) in cycling and in four Winter Olympics (’84, ’88, ‘92 and ’94) in speed skating. She won a bronze medal — her only medal — in the 1500m in Albertville in 1992.

The new president is tied to the Olympics in many ways. She was born in Hokkaido in northern Japan just five days before the Opening Ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Games. Her name “Seiko” comes from “seika,“which translates as Olympic Flame in English.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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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 World Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medal 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.

The U.S. all picked up five medals at last week’s Para Alpine Skiing World 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

Kyle Smaine
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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.”