Iran judo suspension over Israel policy lifted

Saeid Mollaei
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Iran’s suspension from international judo events for refusing to let its athletes fight Israeli opponents was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday.

The case was prompted by former world champion Saeid Mollaei leaving the Iranian team in 2019, claiming he was ordered to lose matches and withdraw from competitions to avoid facing Israelis.

CAS said its judges hearing the Iranian judo federation’s appeal decided the International Judo Federation overstepped its own authority with such a severe ban, which was imposed in October 2019. The case was sent back to an IJF disciplinary panel for review.

The court acknowledged the Iranian judo federation had “committed severe violations of the IJF rules” on discrimination and should be punished, though within the world governing body’s rules.

The IJF had accused Iranian government officials of putting pressure on athletes including Mollaei, who later fled to Germany.

The International Olympic Committee last year approved Mollaei’s switch to compete for Mongolia.

The IOC said the change did not need permission from Iranian Olympic officials because the judoka was technically a refugee.

During the case, the IJF said any action taken against Iran would not apply directly to the Tokyo Olympics, because athletes are technically entered by the Iranian Olympic Committee and not the national judo body.

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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

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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.”