Vince Matthews, Wayne Collett and an Olympic protest forgotten

Vincent Matthews, Wayne Collett
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In a largely forgotten moment, Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett made a medal stand protest at the 1972 Munich Olympics that has become more historically relevant with today’s athlete activism.

In this NBCSports.com story, Tim Layden reported the circumstances of Matthews and Collett earning 400m gold and silver medals, what happened on the podium afterward, how it was received and this question: How did it affect the sprinters’ lives?

Their actions were compared and contrasted with Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised black-gloved fists on the 1968 Olympic 200m medal stand in Mexico City.

Today, the subject of athlete demonstrations is prominent in the Olympic movement.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

In January 2020, the IOC Athletes’ Commission published further guidelines pertaining to Rule 50. It stated that “protests and demonstrations” are not permitted at Olympic venues, during medal ceremonies, at Opening and Closing Ceremonies and at the Athletes’ Village. “Protests” included “gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling.”

Then last June, IOC President Thomas Bach, when asked about athletes potentially protesting at the Tokyo Games, said the IOC Athletes’ Commission will talk with athletes around the world to explore how Olympians can express themselves while keeping the Olympic Charter in mind.

While those discussions happen, the USOPC announced in December that it will not sanction Team USA athletes for peacefully and respectfully demonstrating in support of racial and social justice.

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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 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

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.”